Airplane operator sues city over alleged maintenance issues at Lawrence Municipal Airport

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

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

Updated at 11:55 a.m. Monday, April 29

An airplane operator at the Lawrence Municipal Airport is suing the city of Lawrence, claiming that the city hasn’t properly kept up some airport infrastructure and that disrepair damaged one of the company’s airplanes.

Great Planes Inc., which operates an airplane hangar and offices at the airport on space leased from the city, recently filed the lawsuit in Douglas County District Court. The lawsuit alleges that the city breached its contract with Great Planes, and it is seeking damages of about $19,000, plus interest and legal fees.

Great Planes executed the land lease with the city in 1989, according to documents Great Planes provided to the court. The 35-year lease set the monthly rental payment at $80 per month, which would be adjusted every 10 years on the basis of the change in the consumer price index. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office lists Lawrence resident and longtime pilot Stephen Craig as the authorized officer for Great Planes Inc.

The lawsuit alleges that in March of 2014, the propeller of an airplane owned by Great Planes was damaged due to a rock strike that occurred on the airport’s tarmac. The lawsuit states that prior to the incident, Great Planes had informed the city that the tarmac was in an unsafe condition due to loose pavement chunks and other debris.

Following the damage, the lawsuit states that Great Planes submitted a claim to the city, including estimates for repair to the plane, but the parties were unable to come to a resolution. The city informed Great Planes that the pavement may need maintenance; however, the city could not find material missing from the tarmac of a sufficient size to cause the damage Great Planes indicated, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit goes on to argue that the city breached its contract with Great Planes in two ways: quiet enjoyment, and good faith and fair dealing. Due to the contract breaches, Great Planes requests that the court order the city to pay $15,723 for property damage and $2,910 for the loss of the material benefits of the lease. It also requests the city pay pre- and post-judgment interest, costs of the legal action and attorney’s fees.

First, the lawsuit alleges there is an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment in the lease, which the city breached when it failed to properly maintain the tarmac at the airport. The lawsuit also claims the city breached the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment when it undertook “extended construction projects” at the airport. The lawsuit states those projects denied Great Planes a material benefit of the lease.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims Great Planes was prevented from utilizing its hangar for its primary purpose of accessing the tarmac and runways because of construction projects that were underway from May to October of 2015 and July and August of 2018. In addition, the lawsuit alleges there is an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the lease, which the city also breached by failing to properly maintain the tarmac and by undertaking the extended construction projects.

“The City’s breaches interfered with Great Planes’ beneficial use and enjoyment of the leased premises, frustrating the purpose and intent of the Lease,” the lawsuit states.

The city has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, and Deputy City Attorney Randy Larkin said in an email to the Journal-World that it would be premature to comment on the lawsuit at this time.

The city-operated airport is about 3 miles north of town on U.S. Highway 24 and covers nearly 500 acres, according to the city’s website. The airport has a 5,700-foot runway and averages more than 100 daily flights. Aircraft that use the airport include single- and twin-engine planes as well as business jets. The city has owned and operated the airport since 1929.

— Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the name of Stephen Craig as the authorized officer for Great Planes Inc.

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