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Skydivers schedule town hall to refute city on Middletown airport issues

Middletown City Council has approved funding for a self-serve fueling system and installation costs. The new self-serve fueling station construction is slated to begin sometime in mid-March. Starting Jan. 1, the city will begin its role as the Fixed Base Operator to provide fuel and other services at Middletown Regional Airport starting on Jan. 1. FILE PHOTO
Middletown City Council has approved funding for a self-serve fueling system and installation costs. The new self-serve fueling station construction is slated to begin sometime in mid-March. Starting Jan. 1, the city will begin its role as the Fixed Base Operator to provide fuel and other services at Middletown Regional Airport starting on Jan. 1. FILE PHOTO

The co-owner of Start Skydiving will hold a town hall meeting to refute claims made by Middletown city officials and their consultants about moving the skydiving operations at Middletown Regional Airport.

John Hart II told council that Federal Aviation Administration, United States Parachuting Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association would provide information and answer questions from the public about the safety and other concerns that city officials have raised.

City officials are considering multiple proposals to move the landing area for the skydiving business, which caused a strong response from Hart and the company.

Hart also said the city has misrepresented issues such as jumpers crossing the runway or taxiway after their jumps, that pilots avoid coming to Middletown because of the skydivers and other operations of the airport.

Hart acknowledged to Acting City Manager Susan Cohen that he received the proposals about the landing zones and the request for written feedback, but said he wanted to do a formal presentation.

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The city and the Harts have been in an ongoing dispute over hangar issues, and the Harts say the city has failed to live up to the contract with them. Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said the city is still negotiating with Start Skydiving concerning the outstanding hangar issues. She said there is “plenty of space for everyone at the airport.”

That town hall meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, March 16 at Berachah Church, 1900 Johns Road in Middletown.

John Hart III, Hart II’s son and also a co-owner of the business, recently released a narrated, 54-slide presentation that refutes the city’s presentation during the Middletown City Council retreat last month about moving the skydiving landing zones away from the runway’s 6,100-foot runway.

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He said there were a number of pertinent questions asked at the retreat and noticed that attendees “were not getting truthful answers or that the answers were roundabout and didn’t answer the questions at all.”

Hart outlined the various questions and cited FAA information that provides suggestions and recommendations to improve sport parachuting. He said there are no federal aviation regulations regarding parachute landing areas. Hart also said that Start Skydiving follows USPA rules through its current landing areas for various experience levels.

MORE: Changes coming to Middletown airport as city takes over operations

He also said only the FAA has the authority to approve or deny restrictions based on safety or efficiency at federally obligated airports.

“In all cases the FAA is the final arbiter regarding aviation safety,” Hart said in the narration.

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Start Aviation was the airport’s operator until Jan. 1, when the city took over, and is working outside of a trailer at the airport. Hart said the trailer should be moved because it’s an obstacle on the tarmac. He also claimed the self-serve fueling tank is in a poor location and is inconvenient for local pilots to use.

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“Start Skydiving’s current location is the safest and most efficient for all airport users as proven over the past 12 years,” Hart said. “Why try to change something that works so well, especially at the expense of safety and the success of local businesses?”