By Paul Gable
Horry County, its council, appointed officials and contractors as well as officials from the Federal Aviation Administration were named as defendants in a federal tort claims lawsuit filed recently by Skydive Myrtle Beach.
The lawsuit claims Skydive Myrtle Beach was illegally closed when Horry County Council and its Department of Airports worked with the FAA to deprive Skydive Myrtle Beach of its constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In 2014, Skydive Myrtle Beach lodged a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration against Horry County Department of Airports alleging discriminatory actions against Skydive Myrtle Beach by HCDA.
In response, Horry County Department of Airports reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that Skydive Myrtle Beach was the subject of 112 alleged safety violations while conducting business at Grand Strand Airport.
In October 2015, the FAA issued a 73 page Director’s Determination Report supposedly basing the report on those safety violations. Horry County subsequently used this report as an excuse to shut down Skydive Myrtle Beach operations at Grand Strand Airport.
Skydiving is an approved aviation activity at all airports receiving FAA grants, according to FAA guidelines. Grand Strand Airport and the Horry County Department of Airports receive FAA grants on a routine basis.
The only valid excuse for denying an approved aviation activity at an airport that receives FAA grants is for safety violations.
The Director’s Determination Report specifically mentioned pictures and videos supporting the safety allegations. The FAA has since denied any possession of videos, pictures or investigation documents despite repeated FOIA requests from Skydive Myrtle Beach.
In the ensuing period since Skydive Myrtle Beach was closed by Horry County in October 2015, the owners of Skydive Myrtle Beach have made repeated requests to the FAA and Horry County to produce transcripts of investigations of safety violations or any other evidence used to determine any safety violations had been committed by the company.
To date, none has ever been produced by either government agency.
Nevertheless, Skydive Myrtle Beach has been closed since October 2015 due to these alleged, phantom safety violations.
The county and the FAA will now have to ‘put up or shut up’ in court.