STAGE 1

AIRPORT ACCESS REQUEST AND DENIAL

    So you've decided you want to start skydiving onto an airport.  In most cases you can expect immediate resistance from the airport management and fixed wing aircraft community.  Additionally, there may be businesses and/or government agencies located on the airport that will object.  You first step is to find out if the airport has received federal assistance in the past for improvements under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) or other means.  If so, the airport management must allow skydiving on the field if the activity can be done safely and efficiently OR LOSE FUTURE FEDERAL FUNDINGFAA Order 5190.6b Airport Compliance Program, FAA Advisory Circular 150/5190-6 Prohibition of Exclusive Rights,  and FAA Advisory Circular 150/5190-7 Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Activities explain your legal right to use the airport, specifically:


      From AC 150/5190-6,

      “In accordance with the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982, 49 U.S.C. § 47101, et
        seq., and the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant assurances, the owner or operator of
        any airport that has been developed or improved with federal grant assistance is required to
        operate the airport for the use and benefit of the public and to make it available for all types,
        kinds, and classes of aeronautical activity and without granting an exclusive right.  The
        Surplus Property Act of 1944 (as amended by 49 U.S.C., §§ 47151-47153) contains parallel
        obligations under its terms for the conveyance of federal property for airport purposes.”


      From AC 150/5190-7,

      "Skydiving is an aeronautical activity.  Any restriction, limitation, or ban on skydiving on the

        airport must be based on the grant assurance that provides that the airport sponsor may

        prohibit or limit aeronautical use for the safe operation of the airport (subject to FAA

        approval)."


Additional information is contained in FAA Advisory Circular 105-2E Sport Parachuting that states:

      “Sport parachuting (skydiving) continues to increase in popularity and is an FAA-recognized

        aeronautical activity even though parachutists are not certificated airmen.  As an FAA-

        recognized aeronautical activity, regulations require airports that have received FAA funding to

        accommodate this activity unless the FAA determines that compatibility issues prohibit

        parachuting operations at a particular airport.”

Also:

      “Section 105.23 requires approval from airport management prior to skydiving onto any airport. 

        However, § 105.23 (c) allows a parachutist to drift over an airport with an open parachute

        without airport management approval as long as the parachutist remains at least 2,000 feet

        above that airport’s traffic pattern.  Airport traffic patterns are generally 1,000 to 1,500 feet

        above ground level (AGL)..... Parachutes descend relatively slowly and are easy for pilots to

        acquire visually.  Parachutists and pilots have a shared responsibility to see and avoid each

        other…………..  Airports may designate suitable parachute landing areas.  While skydivers

        attempt to land in such areas, at times there may be inadvertent landings in other grass or

        hard-surfaced areas.  This could include landings on runways, taxiways, and other hard-

        surfaced areas.  Areas such as runways, taxiways, clearways, and Obstacle Free Zones (OFZ)

        are not prohibited areas but should not be designated as a primary landing area and should be

        vacated as soon as practical.  Flying a parachute over runways at low altitudes should be

        avoided where possible.”

    Study these documents carefully, and armed with that knowledge, approach the airport manager for his / her permission.  Note the "airport manager" is not necessarily the "airport management".  CFR 14 Part 105.23 requires that "(1) Prior approval has been obtained from the management of the airport to conduct parachute operations over or on that airport."  The city manager is probably considered the "airport management" most of the time.

    Skydive Tandem Greenville, LLC was immediately denied access to both the airport and airspace above the airport by the airport manager and decided to land on private property just outside the airport perimeter, thus avoiding City of Greenville jurisdiction.  This same approach was used by Skydive Sacramento (see their Director's Determination). The airspace surrounding the Greenville airport is designated Class E when the airport control tower is closed.  The airspace is Class D when the tower is open.  The City of Greenville has no jurisdiction over skydiving activity outside the airport boundary.  For Class E airspace jumps the FAA requires notification (not permission) in accordance with FAA regulation 105.25.  Fort Worth Center was provided the necessary notification letterand a Letter of Agreement (LOA) was coordinated with the control tower / Fort Worth ARTCC.  Jump operations began in Feb 2012 in Class E airspace.  The LOA allowed jumps into Class D airspace in April 2012.

    After 4 months of flawless operations, the City and L-3 Communications attempted to shut down skydiving operations by exerting political influence on Fort Worth ARTCC.  The ARTCC notified us by letter on June 8, 2012 that skydiving in Class D airspace during tower operation was suspended until a safety study was performed (see here). The city attorney presented Skydive Tandem Greenville a letter prohibiting ALL skydiving operations from the Greenville airport (see here).  We responded by informing the city attorney he has no jurisdiction over Class E airspace (see here).  The city manager replied acknowledging the city attorney had made a mistake (see here).  We complained to our congressman who had recently made a tandem skydive(see here).   The FAA convened a safety meeting, found in our favor, and skydiving operations resumed in Class D airspace with a new LOA on July 16, 2012.  Although the City of Greenville continued to prohibit skydiving over or onto its airport, we continued operations flying out of the airport and landing on the east perimeter.  The City continued to be granted AIP funds while refusing airport access to an FAA recognized aeronautical activity.  Which brought us to Stage 2.