Lawrence City Commission to consider skydiving procedures for city airport

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

Skydiving businesses may soon be able to operate at the city-owned Lawrence Municipal Airport.

At its meeting Tuesday, the City Commission will vote whether to adopt procedures and minimum standards for parachute operations at the airport, clearing the way for skydiving after years of back and forth on the topic.

Public Works Director Chuck Soules said the procedures provide guidelines for businesses that want to use the airport for skydiving, which could include leasing space for a permanent operation. Soules said while there are no pending applications, the procedures would allow the process to begin.

“When we get a proposal that meets all the requirements, the city and operator will have to enter into some type of agreement to allow that to happen,” Soules said.

The Aviation Advisory Board appointed a subcommittee to research and develop the procedures. AAB Chair Richard Haig previously told the Journal-World that the guidelines set standards to protect the city and airport users.

The proposal up for consideration consists of 19 policies and procedures that any parachute operator must abide by. Those include requirements related to insurance and release of liability, as well as various operation protocols to ensure skydiving doesn’t interfere with other airport activities, which include medical helicopters and private flights.

The question of skydiving at the airport was first raised in 2009, when the city rejected a proposal from Lawrence resident William McCauley to open such a business. The city raised safety and liability concerns, and discussions and correspondence regarding the issue have accumulated in a file of staff memos 48 pages long. After six separate requests were made in 2015 to use the airport as a skydiving drop zone, the city requested that the Federal Aviation Administration assess whether skydiving could safely operate there. The FAA subsequently identified three potential drop zones.

In addition to the procedures and policies, fees for skydiving will eventually need to be established. The city will incur costs to accommodate private parachuting activities, including work needed to provide a landing area, insurance costs and revising the airport layout plan, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The memo states that fees established for skydiving will need to offset those facility and personnel costs.

Soules said that if the commission adopts the procedures, any businesses interested in conducting skydiving at the airport will need to resubmit a proposal. He said fees would depend on how the operation works and whether assistance of city staff is required.

Since 1929, the city has owned and operated the airport, which is on U.S. Highway 24 and covers nearly 500 acres. The airport averages more than 100 daily flight operations of single-engine, twin-engine and business jets, according to the city’s website.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.