Post Tagged with: "Grand Strand Airport"

Horry County Reverses Story on Skydive Myrtle Beach Alleged Violations

August 12, 2017 4:56 AM
Horry County Reverses Story on Skydive Myrtle Beach Alleged Violations

Nearly two years after evicting Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport for, allegedly, committing numerous safety violations, Horry County now won’t claim the skydiving business committed any violations.

In a cover letter providing 126 documents responding to a Freedom of Information Act request for all public documents associated with Skydive Myrtle Beach safety violations, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti stated in part, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.” (See full letter below)

What is astounding about that statement is that two years ago the exact same documents were provided to both the Federal Aviation Administration and S.C. Fifteenth Circuit Court as proof of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach.

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 (contained in the 126 pages of documents) while conducting business at Grand Strand Airport.

On October 7, 2015, the FAA issued a Director’s Determination Report, authored by Randall Fiertz, the FAA Director of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, in response to Holly’s original complaint, supposedly basing the report on those safety violations.

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The Case of Skydive Myrtle Beach

December 27, 2016 6:00 AM
The Case of Skydive Myrtle Beach

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.

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SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County in Court This Month

November 1, 2016 7:25 AM
SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County in Court This Month

Skydive Myrtle Beach and Horry County are scheduled to face off in S.C. Court of Appeals November 3, 2016 for oral arguments in the case of Skydive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County (2014-002491).

The basic question in this lawsuit is whether Horry County acted fraudulently in stopping Skydive Myrtle Beach from operating its business at Grand Strand Airport.

A separate court ruling from a federal Administrative Law Judge is expected to be issued on or before November 18, 2016 addressing the actions of the Federal Aviation Administration in issuing a 73 page ruling against Skydive Myrtle Beach on the basis of very sketchy information provided by Horry County Department of Airports.

The case built by Horry County Department of Airports to evict Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport has more holes than Swiss cheese.

After Skydive Myrtle Beach reported HCDA to the Federal Aviation Administration in February 2014 for discriminatory actions, Horry County officials began looking to cover their tracks.

HCDA began an incident reporting system that logged 112 alleged safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach over the next few months.

None of the 112 alleged safety incidents HCDA insists Skydive Myrtle Beach committed were ever properly reported to the FAA, according to FAA reporting requirements.

A recent Freedom of Information Act response from the FAA to SkyDive Myrtle Beach officials goes further. It says there are no records of the alleged safety violations in the FAA reporting system.

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FOIA Documents Don’t Support Allegations Against Skydive Myrtle Beach

March 12, 2016 6:16 AM
FOIA Documents Don’t Support Allegations Against Skydive Myrtle Beach

After reviewing the 215 documents the Federal Aviation Administration sent to Skydive Myrtle Beach responding to a FOIA request for all documentation related to the alleged 112 safety violations committed by that company at Grand Strand Airport, the conclusion must be drawn that there were no documented safety violations.

The heart of the documents dealing with these alleged violations are a series of “Unusual Incident Reports” generated by Horry County Department of Airports personnel or contractors claiming Skydive Myrtle Beach clients landed in areas other than the designated landing zone. I did not see one report that listed any injuries, accidents or damage to property.

A typical comment on these so-called incident reports said, “At 0922 Local, 3 parachutists jumping with Skydive Myrtle Beach landed outside the landing zone…Skydive Myrtle Beach received permission from CRE tower to retrieve wayward jumpers.”

This is not a safety violation. It is not a violation at all!

Below is the pertinent FAA Advisory Circular dealing with parachute landings on airports.

“Advisory Circular – Subject: Sport Parachuting, Date 5/8/2011, AC No. 105-2D

Below is Section 6(c)2 of the advisory circular:

“(2) Parachute Landings on Airports. Airports may designate suitable parachute landing areas. While skydivers attempt to land in such areas, at times there may be inadvertent landings in other grass or hard-surfaced areas. This could include landings on runways, taxiways, and other hard-surfaced areas. Areas such as runways, taxiways, clearways, and obstacle-free zones are not prohibited areas but should not be designated as a primary landing area and should be vacated as soon as practical. Flying a parachute over runways at low altitudes should be avoided where possible. The FAA recommends that airport management work with parachute operators to develop standard operating procedures (SOP) for activities conducted by parachutists.”

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Horry County Department of Airports Inconsistencies

December 14, 2015 4:56 AM
Horry County Department of Airports Inconsistencies

Looking at the Horry County Department of Airports through the years, a conclusion can be drawn that businesses operating at the various airports are treated differently.

It’s almost as if winners and losers are chosen by airport officials based on no apparent criteria.

Such an attitude is contradictory to instructions from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Accepting FAA grant money (of which Horry County receives millions every year) and free land conveyance of former Air Force property brings with it certain requirements of and assurances from the county. The most important of these is that the airports and their facilities must be available for public use in a non-discriminatory manner.

However, after discouraging Hooters Air from renting hangar space at Myrtle Beach International Airport by insisting on rental of $5 per sq. ft., the Horry County Department of Airports rented the same hangars to AvCraft for $2 per sq. ft.

That was only the beginning rent. Over a 10 year period the airport department kept reducing rent , in an attempt to keep AvCraft in business, until the company finally went belly up.

The Conway airport was home to the North American Institute of Aviation. The school did well until the late 1990’s when enrollment started to decline.

Local businessman Benjamin Creel bought the school at that point, but its losses continued to mount.

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Horry County General Aviation Problems

July 26, 2015 5:02 AM
Horry County General Aviation Problems

An email making its way around the county highlights continuing problems with general aviation at the Horry County Department of Airports.

Discussions about general aviation were taken up during the Horry County Council March 2015 budget retreat. It was mentioned that the county’s general aviation operations were running approximately $400,000 in the red.

There is a general aviation terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport and general aviation airports in North Myrtle Beach, Conway and Loris.

At the time of the budget retreat, GSD wrote that the problem was the county, and specifically Horry County Department of Airports, has neither a real business plan nor any idea how to develop one.

That’s a main reason the International Technology and Aerospace Park (ITAP) at Myrtle Beach International remains nothing but bare grass and why the nearly 200 acres of county land surrounding Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach has no aviation related businesses located there.

This was reiterated in the email, which was sent by a long time aviation business operating in the county, “I would tell you that you need someone in this job that understands aviation, how to promote it and educate the public on the benefits derived from it. Above all, a complete change of attitude on how best to attract good solid business people at these facilities to service the aviation community. Only then will these four airports become productive and useful to the county.”

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Grounding Helicopter Amusement Rides

July 4, 2013 9:00 PM
Grounding Helicopter Amusement Rides

Horry County Council will consider a resolution at its July 16, 2013 regular meeting calling for non-renewal of the lease with Huffman Helicopters at Myrtle Beach International Airport with a view to stopping helicopter amusement rides from that location.

The resolution will notify Huffman Helicopter that the county does not intend to renew its current lease for the Myrtle Beach International location when the lease runs out on October 31, 2013.

Huffman Helicopters has a maintenance shop location at Myrtle Beach International and a helicopter amusement ride at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach that will not be affected by the resolution.

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