By Paul Gable
New court filings could provide interesting revelations in the treatment of Skydive Myrtle Beach by the Horry County Department of Airports.
As county taxpayers will shortly hear of new court actions filed by Skydive Myrtle Beach against Horry County and others, a short historical perspective on the relationship between Horry County Department of Airports and Skydive Myrtle Beach follows:
Skydive Myrtle Beach is a tandem skydiving business owned and operated by armed services veterans.
It began operating its business in Horry County in 2012 after signing an eight year lease with Ramp 66, the county’s general aviation operator of Grand Strand Airport at that time.
After Horry County government bought out Ramp 66 in 2013, it appears that concentrated efforts were made by HCDA to close down the operations of Skydive Myrtle Beach.
Tandem skydiving is a recognized and approved use of publicly supported airport facilities by the Federal Aviation Administration.
It is illegal for an airport that accepts publicly funded grants to discriminate against one type of approved aviation activity, say helicopter operations, over another – tandem skydiving.
The only excuse allowed by the FAA for shutting down approved aviation operations is that those operations contribute to an unsafe environment at the airport.
Unsafe operations was the route taken by Horry County and its Department of Airports to justify shutting down Skydive Myrtle Beach on October 2015.
Shortly after Skydive Myrtle Beach reported to the FAA, in early 2014, discriminatory actions against it by the Horry County Department of Airports, the HCDA began circulating stories about 112 alleged safety violations committed by Skydive Myrtle Beach while it was operating out of Grand Strand Airport.
In October 2015, Horry County government ultimately evicted Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport using the, to date, fictitious safety violations and other questionable legal tactics as justification.
However, it has proved extremely difficult to obtain documentation supporting Horry County’s assertions of safety violations.
Since August 2015, Skydive Myrtle Beach has made numerous requests for information to the FAA on the alleged 112 safety violations it is accused of committing.
To date, only a paucity of information has been provided by the FAA although the agency says it is continuing to search for documents related to the 112 safety violation investigations and complaints.
Most of that documentation is a 73 page report generated by the FAA allegedly based on the alleged 112 safety violations.
Skydive Myrtle Beach was never provided documentation by Horry County of any of the 112 alleged incidents.
When Skydive Myrtle Beach requested those documents from the county, it was told that the county had no records as all the documents had been sent to the FAA.
The FAA was requested to provide those documents, initially in August 2015. To date, the FAA has failed to locate them.
The question must be asked – how did the FAA generate a 73 page report based on the alleged 112 violations when it can’t find documentation on those alleged violations?
What real justification was there for forcing a veteran owned business to shut down its operations at Grand Strand Airport?
Those are just a few of the questions that should be easily answered by Horry County and its airport department, not to mention the FAA. However, there appear to be no answers to them.
Skydive Myrtle Beach appears to have been shut down for no better justification than Horry County officials wanted that result.
The real motto of the “Independent Republic” – ‘The law doesn’t apply to us and, if it does, we’ll change it.’ – will again be tested.