FAA to look into airport complaint

Skydive Sacramento wants to land on property
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The fate of skydivers using Lincoln Regional Airport as a drop zone may be decided this March by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Skydive Sacramento, which is owned by Patrick Garcia, filed a part 16 complaint through the Federal Aviation Administration against the city of Lincoln in July 2009. “It is a procedure in which you ask the FAA to enforce their own regulations,” said Richard Durden, Garcia’s aviation attorney. “It’s not a lawsuit; it’s an administrative complaint that is handled internally by the FAA.” Garcia, who opened Skydive Sacramento 2 1/2 years ago, said the city does not allow skydivers to land on airport property. “Basically, the airport itself is a federally funded airport, and that means you get money from the government to run the airport to help support it,” Garcia said. “The city makes money from leases on hangars and what they’ve been doing is trying to keep skydiving from operating. They can’t do that because the FAA considers it (skydiving) a legitimate aeronautical activity.” The airport is also asking Garcia to provide “insurance for the act of skydiving,” Garcia said, which doesn’t exist. Garcia’s airplane takes off at the Lincoln Regional Airport but his skydivers have to land west of the airport property on private property, which he said affects his “bottom line.” “Right now, the way that we have to do it is we have to drive around three sides of the airport to load up on the airplane, even though we are landing on the west side,” Garcia said. “We could increase our business double because we would be able to fly twice as many loads because we spend so much time driving.” Lincoln Regional Airport manager Dave Daly said that skydivers are allowed to land on airport property. “However, a land lease and rent for commercial use of public airport property is required as part of the city’s requirements and the FAA’s requirements that we charge a fair price for the use of the airport for commercial purposes for a business profit,” Daly said. Daly also said Skydive Sacramento must pay an “airport property premise insurance that deals with bodily injury and personal injury.” “It’s kind of important with certain recreational activities, such as skydiving, that those things be covered in the policy to protect the public,” Daly said. “The statement that we are not allowing it (skydiving) is not true. Skydive Sacramento has not wanted to enter into a land lease and provide an additional insurance premium.” Daly said the airport does receive federal funding for the airport for capital improvements, including runway resurfacing, new runway lights and an automated weather station. The airport has received $2.5 million in federal funds between 2006 and 2009, according to Daly, and is slated to receive $450,000 in the next fiscal year. “At the airport, the primary source of funds are derived from rental of the land and buildings the city owns and the sales of fuel,” Daly said. According to Durden, since the airport receives federal money, they have to “allow equal access to the airport for all aeronautical users,” including skydivers. “They (the Federal Aviation Administration) did an inspection of the area and the airport, and the evaluation said skydiving can be done safely at that airport,” Durden said. That inspection, Durden said, was completed in November 2008. Durden said the Federal Aviation Administration will look at the complaint and make a decision. “Either they will say no, the airport is correct and doesn’t have to allow skydivers to land on the airport property or the FAA will say ‘yes, skydivers can land safely on the airport property and you have to allow them to do so,’” Durden said. “If the airport doesn’t comply, the FAA can take the first step and say you are no longer qualified to get federal funds. If the airport still refuses to comply, the FAA can demand the airport pay back all of the federal funds they received.” Durden said it is not common that they would go to that step. The News Messenger asked Daly how the complaint’s outcome could affect the airport. “If they find in favor of Skydive Sacramento we would have to absorb the cost of that premium,” Daly said. “If they rule in favor of the city, Skydive Sacramento would have to absorb that cost.” Garcia said his business is good for Lincoln’s economy. “I bring in over 5,000 people every year from outside of this town and county every year,” Garcia said. “They are going to stores, staying at hotels, going to restaurants and going to the casino.” Garcia is also looking to city officials “to stand behind me and other small businesses.” “I want help from someone at the city to help small businesses be as strong and successful as they can be,” Garcia said.