Another Twist in the Skydive Myrtle Beach Controversy

By Paul Gable

Another interesting twist has appeared related to the Skydive Myrtle Beach controversy with Horry County over the county’s closing of the Skydive Myrtle Beach business.

Nearly two years ago, the county used a Director’s Determination by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the landing zone for skydivers at Grand Strand Airport and evict Skydive Myrtle Beach from a hangar at that airport.

The Director’s Determination was based on 112 alleged safety violations committed by Skydive Myrtle Beach, which were documented and reported by Horry County Department of Airports personnel and/or Robinson Aviation personnel who are contracted by the county to staff the control tower at Grand Strand Airport.

In a recent post about the ongoing controversy, we quoted a letter by Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti that backed away from calling the documents proof of safety violations by SDMB.

Carotti’s letter, which was included with a response to a FOIA request for documents related to SDMB safety violations, stated, in part, the documents provided “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.”

Several days after the story was posted, the following was contained in an email to at least one county council member:

“On Aug 15, 2017, at 11:24 AM, Carotti, Arrigo <[email protected]> wrote:

The misrepresentation of facts and the law has been ongoing on the part of Mr. Holly, misguided bloggers, and Holly surrogates for several years now, involving universally unsuccessful litigation by Holly, and pending litigation against the FAA, the State of South Carolina, Horry County, officials and employees. There have been no new admissions, the FAA’s and County’s sound positions in the matter remaining the same.  Defamatory commentary on the part of Holly and his surrogates also has been ongoing and is expected to continue, but has been rightfully dismissed by all who have discerned the true set of affairs, borne out in voluminous court documents and public records.

Arrigo P. Carotti / County Attorney”

The above email may be Carotti’s way of voicing the popular Trumpism “fake news.”

With respect to the alleged misrepresentation of facts and the question of whether there have or have not been new admissions by the county and whether the county’s “sound position” remains the same, we offer the following example contained in that voluminous record:

On April 7, 2015, Heather Haney, a Compliance Specialist in the FAA’s Southern Region Airports Division in Atlanta, GA, sent a letter of inquiry to then Horry County Airport Director Pat Apone querying, among other things, whether Horry County had “rules and regulations regarding the management of ground operations in the airport movement area.” Haney’s letter noted eight incidents (of the 112 reported to the FAA by Horry County) before asking the question.

In a letter dated April 27, 2015 answering Haney’s queries, Apone included the following statement, “CRE (Grand Strand Airport) has rules and regulations regarding the management of ground operations in the airport movement area…In addition, the Minimum Standards both incorporate those rules and regulations by reference, but also contain numerous requirements that have been violated by SDMB (Skydive Myrtle Beach).”

However, in responding to an FOIA request for safety violations by SDMB, the county sent 126 pages of documentation relating to 112 alleged safety violation incidents by SDMB, including the eight queried by Haney, with Carotti’s cover letter.

The letters, safety incident reports and HCDA Minimum Standards are all included in the “voluminous court documents and public records Carotti’s above quoted email refers to.

In April 2015, Apone unequivocally stated SDMB violated rules, regulations and requirements in the Department of Airports Minimum Standards. In August 2017, Carotti’s letter states the documents sent in response to the FOIA request, may or may not demonstrate Skydive Myrtle Beach violated the Minimum Standards, even though those are the same documents Horry County sent to the FAA as proof of SDMB violations.

It certainly seems that Carotti’s letter and Apone’s letter contradict each other. But, according to Carotti’s email, there have been no new admissions and the county’s “sound positions’ in the matter remain the same.

I agree with Carotti that the misrepresentation of facts and law have been an ongoing process in the case of Skydive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County. However, I disagree with him that the responsibility for these actions rests with Mr. Holly, misguided bloggers and Holly surrogates.


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