Archive for Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lawrence airport undergoing safety study for skydiving

This file photo from March 2009 shows the Lawrence Municipal Airport from the southeast looking northwest.

This file photo from March 2009 shows the Lawrence Municipal Airport from the southeast looking northwest.

January 17, 2016


The city has taken a step forward in learning whether it’s safe to allow skydiving at the Lawrence Municipal Airport, a question that’s been brought up over the past year after multiple requests from local and regional parachutists.

Commissioner Matthew Herbert, who had heard complaints about delays from one skydiver, prompted the city in November to expedite the process.

One parachutist who made a request to use the airport as a drop zone has said the city was “foot-dragging,” and an official with the United States Parachute Association said Lawrence was an “extreme case” when it came to delays and concerns about the sport.

Interim City Manager Diane Stoddard reported to the City Commission on Tuesday that the city has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration. She said the FAA’s Kansas City office sent a letter Jan. 5 to the Flight Standards District Office in Wichita requesting a safety study.

Related document

FAA request for safety study ( .PDF )

Airport safety studies typically examine air traffic patterns, types of aircraft using the airspace, and frequency of use, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, a public affairs official with the FAA, via email.

In the letter, Jim Johnson, manager of the FAA’s airports division in the central region, also asked that the findings from the study include guidance on where parachutists should land. He wrote that city officials had expressed concern that skydiving would delay the emergency response time of Life Star of Kansas and asked that the air ambulance operation be taken into consideration in the study.


Though the FAA is tasked with making sure all aircraft using an airport can do so safely, the FAA does not regulate parachuting, Cory said. The sport is self-regulated by the United States Parachute Association.

Gary Peek is the director of the central region of the U.S. Parachute Association and is in charge of a five-state area comprising Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.

Peek said he’s talked to at least two of the people who have made requests to use the Lawrence airport. Officials at many airports have some concern with the sport, Peek said, but when it came to delays in responding to requests and the level of concern, Lawrence is severe.

“Sometimes these things happen, and we just don’t know why people are so dead set against skydiving,” Peek said. “Skydiving generally generates a lot of objection from airports, and this one is pretty extreme.”

About the city’s concerns with skydiving affecting air ambulance operations, Peek said that response, too, was “extreme.”

“When it gets all solved, it turns out they don’t (have a negative effect), but people imagine they do,” Peek said.

He used the Hannibal, Mo., Regional Airport as an example, saying it houses both parachute landing areas and an air ambulance operation.

“It’s just not a problem,” he said.

Recent requests

City Public Works Director Chuck Soules said there were six requests in 2015 to use the airport as a skydiving drop zone.

Prior to that, skydiving operator and Lawrence resident William McCauley had made multiple requests, the most recent of which was in April 2014, McCauley said.

One request in 2015 came from Paul Fortier, a skydiving hobbyist from Omaha, Neb.

Fortier said he and a group of friends regularly fly past Lawrence on the way to other drop zones in the Midwest, and they sought to use the airport because of its location and convenience.

According to copies of emails provided by Fortier, his first request was emailed to the city June 12, and he was told more than a month later the request was being reviewed. Fortier followed up Aug. 1, saying in an email that “normally this type of request moves much more rapidly — sometimes minutes, more often hours, seldom days, and I’ve never seen durations in weeks or months.”

The city responded again Aug. 10 saying the airport was working with the FAA, and Fortier wrote back again Oct. 1 but didn’t receive a response.

"It's just foot-dragging," Fortier said in a November interview. "It's been a little bit of an exercise in frustration. If it wasn't for the foot-dragging, and if they'd been reasonable in talking to me, I would have dropped the whole thing. … I've flown right over Lawrence, and I'll refuel at other airports on purpose because I won't spend money where I'm not welcome."

Soules has said there had not been a decision on skydiving operations at the airport because of concerns for safety.

That safety study is currently in progress, Cory said. She said via email there was no estimate of when the study would be complete, only that “studies take as long as they need to in order to fully examine all of the airspace components.”

Johnson’s letter asks that the Wichita office let Lawrence officials know whether certain airport or air-traffic provisions need to be implemented to keep the area safe during skydiving operations.


Gene Douglas 2 years, 4 months ago

Like I've said before.."Why would anyone want to jump our of a perfect aircraft flying straight and level??"

Kristine Matlock 2 years, 4 months ago

Because it is so incredibly fun!!!! Unless you are just deathly afraid of heights, you should try it. Best rush ever. My favorite was tandem in FL over NASA from 18K feet. 1.5 minutes of freefall while looking at NASA and the launch pads and the Atlantic Ocean. I really hope we get this approved in Lawrence, will start working on jumping alone instead of tandem. Haven't gone down that path yet because I had to drive so far to jump.

And, I have jumped from one plane that was in such bad shape, I was happy to exit the plane!

Lawrence Freeman 2 years, 4 months ago

There is more than one way to shoot at a target! But any sensible review wouldn't take more than a few phone calls to other airports. Maybe a day?

William McCauley 2 years, 4 months ago

page one

page one by William McCauley

You are correct, normally it takes not very long at all. It would have been nice to have the City of Lawrence not waste everyone's time and tax payer money to fight and refute the prior safety study that was done a few years ago, but that was not to be the case and not really a big surprise to anyone who has tried to deal with city hall departments.

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

You can ask why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. But a better question would be, why would anyone want to propagate years of lies and purposeful foot-dragging to avoid the establishment of a legally mandated parachute landing area. Or you could ask the legitimate question of why would a city want to keep out a legitimate income generating business. I am a skydiver and a lawyer. I've been personally involved in this dispute. There are only two outcomes. Skydiving is allowed or the city of Lawtence loses all of its federal funds for the airport. Is that what you want? Because if so, that can be delivered at your doorstep.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 4 months ago

Marty, I don't think any of us want to stop you from jumping out of a plane, ok. We just said we will not be joining you. We might wave at you from the ground though. :>) And maybe the city is worried about liability. Have you reassured them that they will not be liable if a chute doesn't open? How do other airports and cities protect themselves?

William McCauley 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes Ms. Reed, the city was assured, that like every place else everyone would be required to sign a waver, or a hold harmless agreement, in fact this would be the only activity using the airport that would be willing to do so. However some city staff refused to listen to those facts, and many others items that were to be discussed, instead the airport board held a "city commission" style public hearing, that was never advertised to the public, only those invited were there.

By federal aviation laws they were required to follow the process that the airport manager is now being forced to do, and request a FAA safety study. They've tried a whole host of things to try and get us to go away, like saying the zoning won't allow for this aeronautical activity, even when it is not in their legal authority to do so. It all boils down to a handful of people in the community, like Mr. lIddle, simply don't want to share the airport that they spent our tax money to fix up to their liking.

In fact the public record shows, in 2000 another operator tried to bring their existing business to Lawrence. They were told the same as I was told, that we can invest and build here, take off and land airplanes here, but the city and airport board would tell them where in the county they could land parachutes, but it wouldn't be taking place on the airport.... You can get a shuttle bus and like it!

Now there are six others making the request and being ignored by the airport manager, until he was forced to do his job by a commission order. So there is a long history of telling skydivers NO, it is not a one time thing. What Mr. Bundy has had to say is the truth, in regards to the great lengths they've under taken to prevent this activity in our community.

The people need to understand, it might say Lawrence Municipal Airport on the sign, but the city is not the owners of that airport, it belongs to the United States tax payers to the tune of 35 million or more and change, the money the city took was congressional money, set aside for WE the people, of the people and by the people, we all own it!

Lawrence Freeman 2 years, 4 months ago

What is Lawrence coming to?! People wanting to sky dive. A gun range want to open in city limits.

Oooh, we got trouble my friends. Trouble I say, right here in river city! Trouble, trouble, trouble! ;/

William McCauley 2 years, 4 months ago

Don't forget the family fun center that someone wanted to open, you know putt putt and electric go carts, batting cages and an arcade.... voted NO on that one too. But hey if you want to open a bar to cater to getting people drunk and watching KU sports, no problem, just don't try to add any silly arches in front of your door.

Scott Kaiser 2 years, 4 months ago

Veterans have jumped from air craft since before WWI. George H. W. Bush continues to jump in his 80's. I think this is a great idea to continue the experience of free fall for military and civilian alike!

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

Not a threat at all Clara. When the city signs an agreement to accept federal funds for the airport they also agree to comply with all of the rules and regulations relating thereto. One of the requirements is that the airport not discriminate against aeronautical activities, which includes skydiving. They have done everything in their power to circumvent,ignore and stall implementation of that mandate. If they continue to do so the ultimate outcome will be a loss of federal funding. May I ask, do you have something against skydiving?

Clara Westphal 2 years, 4 months ago

I have nothing against skydiving as long as I don't have to do it.

Bruce Liddel 2 years, 4 months ago

I haven't been involved for several years, but I was "a factor" in seeing to it that skydiving was not ignored in establishing the original airport minimum standards. I believe those standards never became an issue because the one skydiving operator who was quite so vocal about coming to the Lawrence airport years ago was rather unnecessarily hostile and obnoxious. He seemed to think that what he said should govern, and that the government should salute him when he barked orders. Safety was also similarly never seriously discussed, because that particular operator's attitude clearly indicated he had no business bringing that kind (or indeed any kind) of business to our community. I tried to gently persuade him that he might catch more flies with honey than with nuclear weapons, but he didn't seem to be interested. I don't agree that the city has discriminated against any class of aeronautical activity, at least not while I was involved. In my humble opinion, the city has a legitimate right (if not a duty) to discriminate against hostile bullies. Those (bullies) are not a protected class.

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Liddell. Were you also instrumental in seeing that the several requests to make parachute landings at the Lawrence Airport were ignored, including mine a couple years back? Did your minimum standards take into account establishment of a parachute landing area? Or are you just defensive because, but for what appears to be the honest look the newly elected members of the City Council are now undertaking, funding iwould be in jeopardy. I think you are completely reversed on who was the bully and who was the bullied in this situation. And I say that after taking a hard look at a lot of documents meeting with some public officials and doing quite a bit of legal research. Exactly what is your interest in keeping skydiving off of the airport?

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

Clara, you are cool. Nobody will ever make you skydive. But if you ever get the urge I would be proud to take you up.

Bruce Liddel 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Bundy: You incorrectly assume I have something against skydiving. I don't. In fact, I kind of like the idea, though there are some valid concerns. My airport involvement was way longer ago than a couple of years, so your unfounded accusations are as preposterous as they are obnoxious. Your ignorance of the purpose of airport minimum standards is also evident in your line of questioning. I've said or done nothing that needs defense. If the airport were to take a position that discriminated against skydiving, then airport funding would be in jeopardy. That is true. As far as I know, from what I read in the paper, even now, that's really not necessarily the case. I honestly do not remember the name of the individual who tried to bully the city into giving him control of the airport many years ago, but I do note a startling similarity between his tone with the city and your demonstrated propensity to attack me personally. I reiterate: I feel the city has a duty to protect the citizens from hostile bullies. I strongly suspect that if you have an interest in skydiving at LWC, and you were to take an attitude of respect and working constructively with the city, that you might get a lot farther than you have apparently gotten so far.

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Liddell,

I do not know you personally nor have I ever had any personal involvement with you. But I have had lengthy involvement with people from the airport Advisory Board, the City Council and the City Attorney's Office. I can assure you that their interests were in keeping Skydiving out. Are yours? I don't know. I will take you at your word.

As for attitude, perhaps I come across as a little miffed but so do you. I am annoyed because, for a period of many years, and up until the recently elected city council, the elected and appointed officials of Lawrence did everything within their power, including spending funds to hire outside attorneys, to keep skydiving out of Lawrence. That's why I come across as annoyed. Why do you?

Perhaps we can reach a common ground. Let's take the person you had issues with concerning the skydiving business out of the equation. Do you know that many of us individual skydivers have submitted requests to skydive into the Lawrence airport? Do you know that the FAA determined that sky diving can be safely conducted at the Lawrence Airport and there are many safe landing areas? Do you know that Lawrence ignored the requests of skydivers for years and to this day has never granted one? Do you know that at other airports across the country it is simply a matter of asking permission and an hour or a day later you're permitted to jump? Do you know that that the inaction and refusals of the Lawrence Airport legally constitutes discrimination against aeronautical activity which in and of itself jeopardizes funding of the Lawrence Airport, without regard to any requests to establish a business?

If you have nothing against Skydiving and in fact think it's a fine activity, how about you help us get the airport Advisory Board to comply with the safety study performed by the FAA years ago and simply grant a skydiving enthusiast the opportunity to jump? What is your objection to that, if any?

I note in your comments above you said safety was never the issue. Safety is the only relevant legal issue when a skydiving enthusiast asks for permission to make a jump into the airport. Since safety is not an issue I am hopeful you will now see our side of it and get on board with approving a parachute landing area for sports diving enthusiasts. It is no different than having a runway for a pilot.

Phil Wente 2 years, 4 months ago

Sky diving is one big adrenaline rush. And if the operators manage it correctly and there's no deaths, it's all good. Greene County Sport Parachute that use to operate in Wellsvile years ago was a horrible place to jump.

Bruce Liddel 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr Bundy: Do you know that many of us individual skydivers have submitted requests to skydive into the Lawrence airport? Mr Liddel (Please note the spelling): No, I do not. How would I? For the third time, I’ve not been involved for many years. For some reason or reasons, the city keeps dropping my name from the aviation related e-mail distributions, so I’ve simply given up. I’m totally out of the loop. Totally.
Mr Bundy: Do you know that the FAA determined that sky diving can be safely conducted at the Lawrence Airport and there are many safe landing areas? Mr Liddel: I’ve heard that rumor, yes.
Mr Bundy: Do you know that Lawrence ignored the requests of skydivers for years and to this day has never granted one? Mr Liddel: Since I wasn’t aware of requests, I can hardly be expected to know of the city’s responses. If what you say is true, then I am definitely somewhat disappointed. But it is their airport, not mine, and not yours. I’m not clear on what you hope to achieve by belaboring the past. Mr Bundy: Do you know that at other airports across the country it is simply a matter of asking permission and an hour or a day later you're permitted to jump? Mr Liddel: I’ve never tried to jump anywhere, let alone elsewhere, so my answer to your specific question is no. However this inspires a simple question: if it’s so easy everywhere else, and Lawrence is as stubborn as you say, why not simply go anywhere else? KOWI? KTOP? KFOE? K64? K34?
Mr Bundy: Do you know that that the inaction and refusals of the Lawrence Airport legally constitutes discrimination against aeronautical activity which in and of itself jeopardizes funding of the Lawrence Airport, without regard to any requests to establish a business? Mr Liddel: I’m not an attorney, nor am I a judge. I don’t work for government, and I don’t represent any group. I do know that “through the fence” operators are a thorny issue everywhere, and that Lawrence is grappling with that issue, just the same as any other airport. I don’t think this is nearly as simple as you would have us believe. Not everything is discrimination, even if you don’t get your way.

Bruce Liddel 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr Bundy: how about you help us get the airport Advisory Board to comply with the safety study performed by the FAA years ago and simply grant a skydiving enthusiast the opportunity to jump? Mr Liddel: what makes you think I have any pull at all with anyone at the city or on the Aviation Advisory board? Despite being a former board member, I don’t . I’m a “has been”, and apparently the city wants to keep it that way. So, I guess my objections to your proposition would be that I see no point in bloodying my head head against a brick wall, with no potential payoff.
Mr Bundy: I note in your comments above you said safety was never the issue. Safety is the only relevant legal issue when a skydiving enthusiast asks for permission to make a jump into the airport. Mr Liddel: I never said safety isn’t an issue. I said it was never seriously discussed, i.e. as a basis for refusal of the proposal made by the previously discussed bully.
Assuming your pretense is correct, that safety is not an issue, then the key to your success lies not in arguing about safety, or threatening lawsuits, or insulting respondents on forums, but rather addressing whatever else is bothering the city about your proposals. The safety blather, (assuming it is as you assert, just blather) may be a red herring. You may not even know what is really bothering the city. Heck, the city may not know. Until now, all both sides have done is argue. Until that changes, nothing will change. It’s your move. Choose wisely. Knowledge is power. Remember, I’m not the one you have to convince, which is good for you, because you got off to a pretty rocky start. I’m just a casually interested bystander, watching people on both sides, arguing for the sake of arguing, accomplishing nothing.

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Liddell,

Sorry you consider our discussion to be a rocky start, I thought it was headed in a good direction until your last comments.

I understand that you don't have a horse in this race, at least at this point in time. So it makes sense that you would stay out of the mix.

As to your comment that we should address whatever is bothering the city - I agree. Unfortunately, you're mystification with what is bothering the city is shared by all of us that have asked to jump into the airport.

On the good side, it appears that many of the people who were fundamentally and illogically against skydiving are no longer in positions of power. The safety study is going ahead and I have every reason to believe the outcome will be same as the original safety study. Skydiving operations can be safely conducted at the Lawrence airport and there are several landing areas which are safe and satisfy all rules.

I look forward to the establishment of a parachute landing area at the airport. I also look forward to jumping into the airport. Should you care to come and watch or join in you would be welcome. We skydivers are a particularly welcoming breed of people.

Bruce Liddel 2 years, 4 months ago

OK Mr Bundie, persist in misspelling my name however you like then, even after I have drawn your attention to it. Ignore my questions. Declare victory. Be welcoming, at least as long as nobody offers any differing viewpoints, or asks questions. I guess you don't need anyone's help or support after all. You've got everything all figured out. It must be nice, although for someone who has everything figured out, and professes to be so welcoming, you sure do seem to do a lot of complaining and alienating.

Marty Bundy 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Liddel,

One L? Sorry. Didn't catch it. Working from my phone. The screen is small and I have no acuity in one eye Epiretinal membrane with a pucker. The mistake was not intentional in any way.

I guess it's time to wrap up this discussion. It has gone way downhill. I'm sorry for any misunderstanding. I'm sorry you are bitter. I wish you well.

Kyle Grim 2 years, 4 months ago

I'm a pilot and a skydiver, a long time supporter of small business dropzones and the collaborative airport communities that spring up around successful, friendly DZ's.

General aviation is under attack by several factors which are eroding the user base and putting up obstacles for current and prospective new pilots (and skydivers).

If our country wishes to enjoy the benefits of general aviation and happy, healthy airport communities, the local governments need to support small business development like this. It's vital to the local airport and GA as a whole.

We all want the same thing: a prosperous, productive and safe town to call home. So we can all work together to facilitate it for each other.

Jason Jasnos 2 years, 4 months ago

I would love to see a Skydiving operation here. I have been jumping for over 20 years incident free. It's a wonderful sport that brings people together and for skydivers it is a family. Skydivers come from all walks and backgrounds and bring joy to people who wish to experience the thrill. It also brings money from out of town/state and country. The fact that this request occurs to people like a risk and liability is sad.

Don't let fear run your decisions. that's all it is. FEAR. This country has become so afraid of anything that could hurt and/or offend someone for fear of a litigation.

Do the research and the numbers will speak for themselves.

Clinton Redden 2 years, 4 months ago

I too am one of those that wrote letters requesting access to the airport to skydive in Lawrence. I am a two time combat veteran who has joined the sport of skydiving. In response to my letter I received a meager response, that appeared to me to be very canned, referencing an attached letter to the FAA requesting a safety study, that was not attached to the email. When I tracked down the letter to the FAA the wording in it stated safety concerns but did not actually request a safety study.

To the statement that was made about an someone being "unnecessarily rude and obnoxious" being a factor in a persons right to start a business goes completely against the freedoms I and many other have fought for. Weather or not you like an individual should not be a reason to hold them down.

To the safety concerns with the original individual, this is not a sport, as with almost any sport, that people who have cavalier views on safety last very long in. Anyone who has been in this sport for any length of time has a strong respect for safety and the need there for it.

As to the safety comment about "operators managing it [drop zones] correctly and there's no deaths"; while I agree with the first half of this statement, the second half is the same as saying that airports or highways should only be allowed to operate as long as there are no aircraft accidents or car wrecks. Flying an airplane or driving a car is inherently dangerous, but we have safety programs designed to minimize the accidents; in the same respect the USPA, and there for all USPA group member drop zones, have a safety program that is adhered to.

There is no reason or right for an individual to be stopped or inhibited in any way from conducting an FAA recognized aviation activity at a municipal airport or to try to limit someone from owning or operating a business anywhere in this country because you dislike the person or the legitimate and completely valid business that they want to conduct, doing is considered by many as un-American.

Roy Urick 2 years, 4 months ago

One thing to take into consideration; How does the FAA fund airports? The number of takeoffs and landings annually. What activity generates lots of takeoffs and landings in a pretty reliable number? Skydiving! One skydiving operation can consistently generate more takeoffs and landings than several of the average General aviation (GA) aircraft on the field. Why block a cash cow of GA operations in regards to federal funding?

Skydiving happens across MANY airports internationally daily with no ill effects to the rest of the local GA community. The FAA has ruled that skydiving is a legitimate use of GA airspace and airport use, so why the long delays? Lawrence is hardly the first airport to consider skydiving operations, so any significant delays are simply foot-dragging in hopes that the skydivers will simply grow weary of the delays and go away.

Given the track record of numerous other skydiving operations worldwide that coexist with other GA operations on the field, the Lawrence officials need to stop the stonewalling and either approve the operations, or give legitimate, concrete and documented reasons why skydiving is not appropriate for this airport. Simply delaying the study indefinitely because they do not approve of skydiving is an abuse of power.

Bob Smith 2 years, 4 months ago

It seems like until one of the movers and shakers in Lawrence figures out how to make money off skydiving, this project will stay in limbo.

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