Tag: Skydive Myrtle Beach

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).”

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.”

Myrtle Beach International Airport

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.

Myrtle Beach International Airport

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.