Tue, Mar 20, 2012
Pays Outstanding Balance On Aircraft Towing, Cleanup After The Storm
In a memo posted on the Sun 'n Fun website, the event president and CEO John "Lites" Leenhouts says that the organization has paid a "substantial" balance remaining following the cleanup of damage which occurred when a tornado hit the event last spring.
“Following the devastating storm during the 2011 Fly-In event, nearly 30 aircraft were damaged to the point where removal of aircraft and hazmat clean up were necessary in order to maintain a safe environment for all guests, exhibitors, vendors and volunteer staff," Leenhouts writes. "Sun ‘n Fun requested that aircraft owners submit their towing and clean up costs associated with their aircraft to their insurance companies for consideration of payment. Approximately 40% of the total bill (as of 1 Mar 2012) has been recovered from these insurance companies, leaving Sun ‘n Fun with a substantial balance. Sun ‘n Fun has paid this remaining balance in good faith on behalf of those who chose not to submit the bill to their insurance company or who did not carry insurance. At no time has Sun ‘n Fun requested that the aircraft owner pay their bill directly." Leenhouts said that the average cost passed along to each aircraft owner involved was only $2500, with the most being
$19,000 which was paid by an insurance company as requested.
"As a 501(c)3, Sun ‘n Fun relies on the ... annual Fly-In & Expo to fund its ever-expanding year-round educational STEM and aviation programs for youth. While we deeply regret the devastation that occurred as a result of a storm we could not control, to pay for the entire bill would have caused undue hardship for our non-profit organization. We are grateful to those individuals who carried an appropriate amount of insurance as well as those that paid from their own resources and to those who rallied together on the day of the storm to assist in restoring the site to a clean and safe environment for all to enjoy the following day."
NOT Lakeland's Finest Moment...
Sun 'n Fun's handling of the emergency... both in terms of the lack of adequate warning (despite a multitude of broadcast storm warnings throughout the state), and the removal and recovery of damaged aircraft, created quite the firestorm for the event. A number of aircraft owners reported that the 'clean-up' crews working for Sun 'n Fun did as much or more damage than the storm did and that many owners were not consulted properly before their aircraft were moved... some without ANY knowledge or consent. Pilots reported that they were billed outrageous amounts of money for aircraft removal and clean-up that were not authorized by the owners and in many cases seemed to strain credibility.
According to information posted to a popular online message board for the Pietenpol community, three Pietenpol owners were billed nearly $30K for removal and clean-up and in one case an owner was not permitted to remove his own aircraft "for safety reasons." Among the charges for that effort was a reported bill for the clean-up of over 100 gallons of avgas... with the Pietenpol community reporting that only one aircraft experienced a spill of a few gallons -- and despite that, collectively, you could not put over 100 gallons of fuel into ANY three Pietenpols--period (the average fuel tank being something under 15 gallons in total capacity). Other owners reported being barred access to their own airplanes by the police and one even reported that he was threatened with arrest for wanting to secure and recover his aircraft. Pilot reaction to the matter remains critical, with hundreds of emails, message board postings, and other reports indicating that a number of pilots had flown to the event
'for the last time.' ANN has left its seventh message for SnF management and has yet to receive an executive level response. We're not holding our breath...
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