FAA helps compromise for skydiving landing zone at Middletown airport

ajc.com

The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to help Middletown resolve contentious issues with a skydiving business over the relocation of a landing zone at the city’s airport.

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The FAA recently met with officials from Middletown and Start Skydiving about the landing zone. The city approved a new location for it earlier this year, but Start officials say the new area is dangerous for skydivers. The disagreement is the latest between the city and business, which operates at the airport.

For years, the city and Start Skydiving have been embroiled in a dispute concerning issues with the business’ hangar lease.. Feuding over the landing zone has delayed the city’s efforts to complete the Airport’s Master Plan and Layout Plan.

Start Skydiving owner John Hart II has said for months the new drop zone is unsafe. He has also threatened to move the business to a new location.

While the city moved the landing zone in May, Start Skydiving continued to use the previous landing zones upon reopening in June. During the past two months, city officials have been logging complaints with the FAA from pilots using airport concerning safety incidents.

The FAA announced a compromise on Aug. 21 that places the landing zone in the same area that the city decided in May but allows very experienced skydivers to land between their hangar and taxiway.

The FAA also determined:

-- The city has the right to move the parachutist landing zones, but only if the move adds or improves safety

-- A landing area adjacent to runways is concerning, particularly when there are other options available.

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“The city has agreed to work expeditiously with all involved to reach a possible safe and effective compromise that would create a “win-win” situation for all parties,” said Middletown City Manager Jim Palenick.

John Hart III, who co-owns Start Skydiving with his brother, Alex, and their father, John Hart II, represented Start Skydiving in themeeting with city and FAA officials.

“I am thankful for the FAA’s time and effort in helping facilitate this,” Hart III said. “There has not been a productive dialog in the past when we have attempted to work with the Airport Manager Dan Dickten and Assistant Economic Development Director Matt Eisenbraun.

“After meeting with Middletown’s new City Manager Jim Palenick, we are extremely encouraged by the initiative he has taken to be our direct point of contact. We are excited to work together as a team to resolve all outstanding issues between Start Skydiving and the city of Middletown.”

Dickten retired as the city’s airport manager on Monday. Eisenbraun will be overseeing all airport business and management.

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Palenick said the success of the airport is a top priority for the city. He noted various ongoing airport projects such as completion of the airport master plan, development of new hangars, an educational /workforce development center, and working to implement recent FAA recommendations for safety, will continue.

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