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Thu, Oct 08, 2009

CA Skydiving Company Looks To FAA For Help In Dispute With City

City Of Lincoln Says Company Must Have Insurance That's Not Available

For a year, Skydive Sacramento has been landing clients on private property adjacent to an unused airstrip near Lincoln, California, and shuttling them by van back to its hangar on airport property. The owners of the company would like to set up a drop zone on the former airport, but say anti-skydiving city officials are making that impossible.

The city, for its part, says all Skydive Sacramento has to do is agree to its lease terms. But they are asking for liability insurance that a national skydiving association says has not been offered by any company since the 1980's.

After months of negotiating, Skydive Sacramento owner Pat Garcia has filed a formal complaint with the FAA, saying the city is restricting a legitimate aviation activity at a facility that has received federal airport funds.

The Sacramento Bee reports that Garcia wants to build a parachute training and re-packing center just west of the airport. He currently leases a hangar on the east side with runway access, but would like things to be more convenient for himself and his clients. But the city is asking for $1 million in liability coverage, and wants to pass along any increase in its insurance costs to Skydive Sacramento. It also says since utilities such as water and sewer already exist on the east side, he can't relocate to the west side of the airport. A construction company working on a nearby highway has a temporary office on the west side of the airport property

File Photo

Garcia says he can get "slip and fall" insurance for his business, but Randy Ottinger, director of government relations for the United States Parachute Association, says nobody will cover the activity of skydiving from the time they step on the plane until they land. "It has not been available to anyone in the country since the 1980's," Ottinger said.

Ray Ferrell, president of SkyDance SkyDiving, based at the Yolo County Airport, says you can't cover the act of skydiving, but that the waivers signed by the jumpers are effective is protecting cities from liability. He says the same state law that protects cities from lawsuits brought by those injured skateboarding, for example, covers other potentially hazardous activities like skydiving.

The Sacramento Bee reports that there have been three fatalities associated with skydiving in the local area in the past 6 months, but Garcia says his operation is safe, and he has the FAA documentation to prove it. And he said he doesn't understand the city's motives. "Why would they keep us from operating as successfully as we can?" Garcia asked.

FMI: www.skydivesacramento.com, www.ci.lincoln.ca.us

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