Four years ago, a tandem-skydiving provider prevailed in its Part 16 protest against the city of Casa Grande, Arizona, apparently clearing the path for the company to establish a base of operation at the city-managed airport. Ruling that the city had unjustifiably refused the company’s request to set up a base of operation at Casa Grande Municipal Airport (KCGZ), the FAA ruled in 2017 that the city had violated two airport grant assurances and unjustly discriminated against Phoenix Area Skydiving (PAS). The agency mandated “corrective action” on the part of the city.
But in a move described by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as “a fast one,” the city bought a five-acre plot three miles from the airport, designated the land as “airport property,” and told PAS that was where they could set up their base. Surprisingly, the FAA approved the corrective action, leading the U.S. Parachute Association, AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association and the Helicopter Association International to file an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of PAS in response, protesting the action in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
AOPA general counsel Justine Harrison said, “The FAA’s approval of a sham airport corrective plan is troubling and sets a terrible standard and could be a very slippery slope. Creating a disconnected mosaic of properties and calling them an airport defies both common sense and precedent. The tenant certainly won the Part 16 case, but because of the airport and FAA’s subsequent actions, it comes out a loser.”
The AOPA attorney added, “We’ve already heard that helicopter operators could be a logical next group to be moved to ‘new’ airport property. Who knows what other groups labeled as ‘less desirable,’ but who have the legal right to operate on the airport, could be sent into exile, miles away from airport infrastructure?”