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Airport jumps on skydiving fees

March 25, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Airport jumps on skydiving fees

Expert skydivers could begin using Washington County Regional Airport as a drop zone as early as next Wednesday after a six-year battle with airport management.

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz and Brandon Taksa, operations coordinator, on Tuesday presented a plan to the County Commissioners for regulating skydiving at the airport.

Skydivers said they were unhappy with the plan, under which divers would pay $20 per jump and an hourly fee of $50 to pay for an airport employee to monitor the jumping.

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The plan also requires jumpers to have a Class D parachuting license from the United States Parachuting Association, Motz said. A Class D license is the highest class available, she said.

Parachutists would have to have a drop zone manager trained in first aid and CPR on the ground.

The Federal Aviation Administration had told county officials to institute a plan to allow skydiving by April 1 or risk losing millions of dollars in grant funds.

Motz said the county submitted its plan to the FAA last year but the plan hasn't yet been approved.

"We've done everything we've been asked to do," she said.

Two people leading the fight for skydiving at the airport said the charges and regulations that would be imposed on skydivers are unreasonable.

Walter Tinkler, of Hagerstown, said he isn't a skydiver but wants to ensure that equal access is provided to all legitimate aviation activities.

Tinkler said most planes don't have to pay landing fees at the airport and pilots aren't required to have expert licenses or pay fees for airport personnel.

"It's just a gimmick to lean on the skydivers," Tinkler said.

Mike Mooers, of Hagerstown, an expert skydiver, said he's glad the FAA has ruled in favor of skydiving but said he's not satisfied with the fees and regulations.

Motz said the fees were analogous to a golfer paying to use a golf course.

Motz has opposed the use of the airport for skydiving, saying she was concerned it would affect the safety and efficiency of the airport. She said skydivers will also have to pay any additional insurance costs for the county to add skydiving to its insurance policy.

An airport employee escort was required in part because the drop zone is in a restricted area in the northwest part of the airport behind locked gates, she said.

Also, somebody needs to fetch skydivers who miss their targets so regular air traffic isn't delayed, she said.

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