The pilot who towed an aerial banner over Gillette Stadium last week that taunted Patriots players and fans about the “Deflategate” controversy says he was kicked off a local airport’s property following the aerial stunt.
But airport staff said that the request to leave the airfield was merely made in jest.
Ashley Chalmers, owner of Jersey Shore Aerial Advertising, said he was paid by a group of New York Jets fans to tow the banner over the Foxborough stadium on the first day of training camp. The banner read, “Cheaters Look Up!” It was signed by @jetsfanmedia.
After circling the stadium, Chalmers landed his plane at the Mansfield Municipal Airport, which is 10 miles from Gillette. While he was packing up the banner and getting ready to fly back to his company’s headquarters in New Jersey, a worker at the airport drove up to Chalmers and told him he should leave the grounds immediately.
“He said to me, ‘Leave now, and don’t come back,’ ” Chalmers said. “I thought it was comical. I thought he was joking at first.”
But then, Chalmers said, he realized there was a serious tone in the man’s voice.
“The guy was mad,” Chalmers said. “But I don’t know how much weight that holds.”
Kelley Dinneen, president of King Aviation Mansfield, which manages the airport for the town, confirmed that Chalmers was asked to leave once he touched down.
But she said the statement was made “tongue in cheek.”
“I do know that he was told to pack up and get rolling,” said Dinneen, adding that the airport was expecting additional planes to land, and they needed to make room on the runway. “But it wasn’t in a mean way.”
Dinneen said she was upset about the content of the message that Chalmers had attached to his plane.
She said “Cheaters Look Up!” was a form of bullying, and Chalmers’s company allegedly lied to airport workers before he flew from New Jersey into Mansfield, where he hooked the banner to his plane before taking off for his mission.
“We asked him what he was towing. When it was asked, the person on the phone said it wouldn’t be anything against the Patriots,” she said. “It is a little annoying that we were lied to. If we knew what the banner was ahead of time, we would have said, ‘Find another airport.’ ”
She called the banner — and the Jets fans who paid for it — childish.
“They should be focused on the positive aspects of the game, not negativity,” she said.
Dinneen said her attitude toward the banner’s content isn’t limited to anti-Patriots messages.
“That’s for anybody” who wants to display something negative, she said. “It’s just not appropriate. It’s supposed to be a fun thing.”
Chalmers insisted he did not lie to airport workers, but he also said the airport “can’t regulate me for the content of a banner . . . and they can’t censor me.”
Chalmers said he wants Patriots fans to remember one thing: Don’t shoot the messenger; he was only doing his job.
“I’m just an advertising company. I’m not a sports guy, so I don’t really get it when people get so passionate. . . . I couldn’t be any more neutral,” Chalmers said.