Post Tagged with: "Skydive Myrtle Beach"

Skydive Myrtle Beach Wait Continues

February 26, 2016 5:35 AM
Skydive Myrtle Beach Wait Continues

Another month is passing and Skydive Myrtle Beach still has no documents from the Federal Aviation Administration with respect to an ongoing Freedom of Information request.

The FOIA seeks documents that were used by Horry County Department of Airports as the excuse needed to stop Skydive Myrtle Beach from operating at the county’s Grand Strand Airport.

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.

According to Aaron Holly, a principal of Skydive Myrtle Beach, his business had never been notified of any of these violations and still has not received any official paperwork relating to any of them.

In October 2015, the FAA issued a 73 page Director’s Determination Report, in response to Holly’s original complaint, 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.

But nobody can produce documentation of the alleged 112 safety violations.

Horry County claims not to have the documentation even though it was the government agency that ostensibly generated them.

The FAA has failed to produce the documentation even though the agency acknowledged February 2, 2016 was the date to send it out. Since February 2nd, one outrageous excuse after another has been the FAA’s tact.

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Skydive Myrtle Beach FOIA Deadline Passes

February 3, 2016 5:37 AM
Skydive Myrtle Beach FOIA Deadline Passes

The deadline for the Federal Aviation Administration to provide Skydive Myrtle Beach with copies of the alleged 112 investigated safety complaints against the company passed yesterday with silence.

The FAA issued a 73 page report, allegedly based on the safety violation documentation from Horry County Department of Airports. Horry County officials used the FAA report to shut down operations of Skydive Myrtle Beach at the Grand Strand Airport.

Skydive Myrtle Beach initially sought to get the documentation on the alleged safety violation reports through an FOIA request to Horry County. The response from Horry County attorney Arrigo Carotti was that the only information the county had was the 73 page FAA report.

According to Horry County officials, none of the underlying documentation, upon which the report was allegedly based, was available from the county, the governmental agency that supposedly documented the 112 safety violations in the first place.

Beginning last August, Skydive Myrtle Beach sent an FOIA request to the FAA for all documentation related to the 112 safety violations and any other documentation used to generate the 73 page FAA report.

The FAA denied the first FOIA request in October 2015 stating the request was too broad. A second FOIA request was sent by Skydive Myrtle Beach to the FAA, which was accepted.

The following FOIA status report was sent by email from Duke Taylor of the FAA to Skydive Myrtle Beach owner Aaron Holly on January 21, 2016:

“On Jan 21, 2016, at 3:49 PM, duke.taylor@faa.gov wrote:

“Mr. Holly by statute your response is due February 2, 2016.

“At this time our tracking system shows the status as Search and Review.

D”

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Who Has Information on Skydive Myrtle Beach?

December 27, 2015 7:09 AM
Who Has Information on Skydive Myrtle Beach?

The ongoing dispute between Skydive Myrtle Beach and Horry County Department of Airports has taken interesting twists and turns in recent weeks.

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.

According to Aaron Holly, a principal of Skydive Myrtle Beach, his business had never been notified of any of these violations and still has not received any official paperwork relating to any of them.

In October 2015, the FAA issued a 73 page Director’s Determination Report, in response to Holly’s original complaint, 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.

County officials said FAA grant funding was in jeopardy if the Department of Airports didn’t act to shut down the business.

That’s not exactly true. A letter from Michael O’Donnell of the FAA to HCDA director Pat Apone, dated November 13, 2015, states in part, “The FAA also requested Horry County to submit a “corrective action plan incorporating acceptable risk mitigation measures and revised procedures under which safe skydiving operations may resume.”

The county was only supposed to suspend skydiving operations until a mitigation plan was submitted.

And the problem for HCDA gets worse.

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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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Skydive Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Federal Law

December 11, 2015 8:06 AM
Skydive Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Federal Law

The general aviation procedures at the Horry County Department of Airports seem to raise more questions than answers provided.

The county is currently involved in litigation with Skydive Myrtle Beach over the apparently discriminatory way in which the airport department attempted to treat the skydiving company.

While researching information regarding the ongoing litigation between Skydive Myrtle Beach and Horry County, I came across an interesting piece of information that brings into question leases between the airport department and several individual businesses operating at county airports.

Horry County proposed Skydive Myrtle Beach occupy a hangar at Grand Strand Airport under a space use agreement in which the county would charge Skydive Myrtle Beach $1,200 per month or 24% of the gross receipts of the business, whichever is greater.

The Department of Airport leases with Executive Helicopter at Myrtle Beach International Airport include an annual lease amount or 5% of the gross receipts, whichever is greater.

Skydive Myrtle Beach offered tandem skydiving operations to interested customers. Executive Helicopters provides helicopter sightseeing rides as well as maintenance services.

However, under the terms of what is commonly called the United States Anti Head Tax Act, it appears those charges on gross receipts may be illegal.

The US Department of Transportation, under which the FAA is included, is charged with administering the AHTA.

The AHTA prohibits a state or political subdivision (such as a county) from levying or collecting a: “tax, fee, head charge, or other charge [directly or indirectly] on — an individual traveling in air commerce; … or the gross receipts derived from that air commerce or transportation. 49 U.S.C. § 40116(b)(1), (4).”

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Skydive Myrtle Beach v Horry County

December 4, 2015 5:11 AM
Skydive Myrtle Beach v Horry County

Horry County’s ongoing litigation with Skydive Myrtle Beach isn’t as clear cut as county staffers would have you believe.

In fact, the matter is so conflicted that Aero News Network, an online aviation industry publication, did a rather extensive investigation of the ‘so-called’ facts of the case.

Their conclusion: “The matter is convoluted, contains a number of questionable statements (including charges of hazards and safety issues by county officials that appear to be highly suspect and based on less than expert knowledge of skydiving operations/hazards)…”

ANN editor in chief Jim Campbell, a veteran skydiver with USPA jumpmaster and instructor ratings, conducted a series of telephone interviews with Skydive Myrtle Beach staff and customers as well as Horry County officials.

Campbell’s conclusions from those interviews: “So far; no major safety issues have been corroborated and a number of respondents with significant skydiving credentials report few credible safety issues of any note — and nothing of significant import. However; the alleged safety issues noted by Horry County staffers, as well as some FAA bureaucrats (but not reported to SDMB staff or management until long after the alleged incidents occurred), seem questionable in both credibility as well as context…”

Campbell was so moved by his findings that he filed requests for investigation of the entire issue with the SC Attorney General, US Department of Transportation Inspector General and US Justice Department.

Horry County Department of Airports has a history of contradictory treatment of airport, especially general aviation, businesses. It put up with over 10 years of unfulfilled promises by AvCraft, reducing the rent on the hangars AvCraft leased at least three times, before deciding enough is enough.

In a letter dated February 19, 2014, Horry County attorney H. Randolph Haldi accused an attorney representing Skydive Myrtle Beach with either a “misunderstanding or misuse of criminal law.”

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Horry County Department of Airports Conundrum

January 5, 2015 9:02 AM
Horry County Department of Airports Conundrum

Setting minimum standards for general aviation airports in Horry County requires more than Horry County government’s typical “Independent Republic” approach.

Too much is at stake for Horry County government and its Department of Airports to assume it can do whatever it wants to do with respect to the treatment afforded to businesses conducting general aviation aeronautical activities at the county’s airports.

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, most importantly that the airport and its facilities must be available for public use in a non-discriminatory manner.

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Horry County General Aviation Minimum Standards Questions

January 2, 2015 9:32 AM
Horry County General Aviation Minimum Standards Questions

An ordinance amending minimum standards at Horry County’s general aviation airports has been flying below the radar.

The ordinance is scheduled for second reading and public review at the January 6, 2015 regular meeting of Horry County Council.

It is interesting that this amended version to the county’s minimum standards for general aviation airports comes just six months after any type of standards were first approved by council.

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