25 search results for "skydiv"

Pull the plug on skydiving

How much noise is too much?

I’m frustrated that the city of Longmont is allowing Mile-Hi Skydiving to continually push the envelope. This morning at 7:30 am I was awakened by a loud droning. I knew immediately that it was the Twin Otter taking off. Why are they being allowed to start their operations earlier and earlier?

We who live in an area that the city chose to develop next to the airport are suffering greatly from Mile-Hi Skydiving’s noise pollution. What was the city thinking? That we would be immune from the constant drone? No, methinks the city wanted the money. It’s as simple as that — just follow the money. Who wins? Surely we are the losers here (and this also includes those who live in areas east, north and south, and as far away as Gunbarrel!).

The cruel fact is, it’s not just one flight a day — but one every 7-10 minutes all day long from 7:30 am until the sun sets. (Matter of fact, I can hear one swooping in for landing right now at 10:17 a.m. How many flights already on this not-so-peaceful Sunday morning? 10? 20?)

When normal people cause a disturbance in the city, they get arrested! Mile-Hi Skydiving is causing a disturbance every day, all day long, especially on weekends. The City Council needs to do something about their “disturbing” behavior.

This is a quality-of-life issue. What gives them the right to wake up the neighborhood? This isn’t acceptable behavior nor good business. Please, city of Longmont — pull the plug.

Longmont Council Needs Prodding to Adopt Drop Zone Fees

When will the next one land on Airport Road?

For several months, the Longmont city council has been considering a signficant increase drop zone fees, which would be based on the drop zone square footage of 338,000 sf (recommended by the USPA.) The fees would go from the current $7,800 to $70,000 per year.

Longmont airport advisory board Aug agenda and June minutes – search for keyword $70,000

For many years, Mile-Hi Skydiving has been getting a free ride, while the airport enterprise fund can barely meet operating expenses. They were paying zero dollars for the 40-acre drop zone area until we made council aware of the oversight. Then they began paying the annual permit fee of $7,500 codified in the city ordinance – still a paltry sum compared to the damage they are causing. Worse yet, in 2016 Longmont tax dollars – to the tune of $40,000 – were siphoned from the General Fund to pay for airport expenses. Your tax dollars were misdirected and taken away from other worthwhile public projects and amenities.

The drop zone fee proposal has languished since the AAB began reviewing it, and has not moved forward for at least 3 months now.

At least one council member has suggested that it would be very helpful for Longmont residents to speak at their meeting (PITBH) and urge them to proceed with the fees, without further input from the AAB. Your opportunity is tonight, Tuesday 8/22 at the Longmont city council meeting, 7 pm – I hope you will be there and also send an email to council. We must have Longmont residents driving this issue – I cannot do it for you but will provide full support.

Longmont city council email address

June 20, 2017 email: Kimberly: Attached is the information you requested regarding the airport. The answer to question 4 below is as follows: In 2016 the General Fund funded $40,000 for “Development Funds for Airport Utilities and Drainage Master Plan”.

Valeria Skitt
City Clerk

Many thanks,
Kimberly Gibbs
Founder, Citizens For Quiet Skies, Boulder County, Colorado

Stop by our table at the Longmont Farmers Market – Sept 2nd and Oct 7th

No Ceiling for Noise

photo by D Wray

Working for or against the community?

The recent editorial touting the positive economic benefits of the Vance Brand Airport (VBA) was aimed at rallying support for efforts to increase airport operations (Lewis/Slayter opinion 7/26/2015).  The authors claim that further benefits will result from “implementation of the Airport Master Plan,” a veiled reference to the airport expansion, and particularly the runway extension that city council unanimously approved in 2012.

While you ponder the economic benefits provided as justification, consider the undeniable consequences of airport expansion:  more aircraft, more flights, more touch-and-goes, more nighttime flights, more noise and more pollution.

In exchange for your tacit approval for airport expansion, the authors, on behalf of the city, promise to “continue working to address noise concerns.”  Their efforts will include 1.) encouraging commercial instead of residential development near the airport, 2.) encouraging compliance with the voluntary noise abatement procedures (VNAP) and 3.)  asking the FAA to enlarge or modify the skydiving “flight box.”

These promises are distractions, not solutions. What steps have been taken so far?  None.  In fact, noise from skydiving operations has increased since the recent lawsuit ruling in Mile-Hi’s favor.  How would future commercial development help the people who are already subjected to the constant droning of the jump planes?  Regarding the VNAP, there is no enforcement, no fines and no accountability for pilots who choose not to follow them.  Consider that Mile-Hi Skydiving owner, Frank Casares, testified under oath that Mile-Hi pilots consistently follow the noise abatement procedures.  Finally, expanding the flight box will only subject more people to the noise and allow more jump planes to operate concurrently.

So, what can be done to address noise concerns?  Aviation attorney John Putnam presented a lecture in Longmont recently on this topic.  The airport receives Airport Improvement Program (AIP) federal grants in exchange for assurances to keep the airport open to all aeronautical users on reasonable terms.  The grant assurances limit the operator’s ability to adopt regulations to reduce noise.

Mr. Putnam stated that “[Grant assurance 22a] does acknowledge that airports can make reasonable rules governing the access to that airport.  However, the key piece is that it has to be reasonable.”  He also noted that a Part 150 noise study is voluntary and not required as a prerequisite for imposing local noise or access restrictions.  Mr. Putnam further explained that, in practice, the FAA deems all restrictions to be unreasonable, so it is difficult to justify regulations aimed at reducing noise.

Can airports survive without the federal grants?  Yes, according to Mr. Putnam, and real-world examples include East Hampton, NY and Santa Monica, CA.   Since 1982, the city has accepted about $4.7million in AIP grants. That’s an average of $204,347 per year – a modest sum that could be collected through airport user fees.

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving – 70% of Longmont’s noise pollution. Photo by M. Douglas Wray (free to use if attributed)

Who is really benefitting from the airport?  On summer weekends, Mile-Hi Skydiving accounts for nearly 70% of operations. Pilot training and touch-and-goes account for another sizeable chunk of traffic.  Clearly, the airport users are the ones benefitting from the airport and they should pay their fair share for its maintenance, instead of relying on federal taxpayer subsidies that prohibit local control.

You are being asked to surrender your rights to accommodate aviation interests – don’t allow the soothing promises to lull you into complacency.  Remind city officials that the people who live here – both city and county residents who spend their hard-earned dollars in Longmont – are the lifeblood of the community and a high quality of life is worth taking a stand.  Would you allow a Longmont business to poison the water or foul the air? No, you would demand regulations to protect the health and well being of its citizens.

The time has come for the city to adopt sensible and mandatory regulations to address community noise concerns.  Otherwise, the solution will be to disentangle the airport from the onerous demands of the FAA grant assurances in order to restore local control over airport operations.

Quiet Skies: Speaking at Longmont city council

Vance Brand airport - Now a liability for Longmont?

Vance Brand airport – Now a liability for Longmont?

On behalf of Citizens For Quiet Skies, I would like to speak about the airport in the context of avigation easements.

At the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) meeting in February 2013, the airport manager Tim Barth and Don Burchett with the planning department gave a presentation regarding the proposed West Grange Subdivision. This proposed subdivision was located at the southeast corner of Nelson Road and 75th Street, which is within the Airport Influence Zone.

In the meeting packet memo, Mr. Barth explained that since the early 1990’s the has used an airport disclosure statement to inform home buyers of their proximity to the airport.  Mr. Barth recommends that the city transition away from the airport disclosure and instead engage in the use of legally binding avigation easements.

So, what is an Avigation Easement? An avigation easement is a conveyance of airspace over another property for use by the airport. The propery owner has restricted use of their property subject to the easement.  The acquired easement rights typically include the right-of-flight of aircraft; the right to cause noise, dust, vibrations, to name a few. The avigation easement on the property “runs with the land”, meaning that future owners are also restricted.

To summarize in plain English, the airport disclosure does not protect the city from being sued for damages from excessive noise.  The avigation easement does – it is a legally binding document.

So, what does the home buyer receive in exchange for signing the avigation easement?  Example 1 shows 1 dollar in consideration. Example 2 shows ten dollars. For ten dollars, the home buyer signs away their rights to peaceful enjoyment of their land.

At the board meeting, Tim Barth and several board members commented on the proposal.

Mr. Barth said that with the avigation easement, the city has some protection, it doesn’t stop complaints but it protects the city.

Who is “the city.” The dictionary defines a city as “ the people who live in a city.” Was
Tim Barth aiming to protect the people of the city?

Board Member Morgan commented that, because of the numerous complaints, the disclosure was not working well and a stronger document or avigation easement would be in order.  Board Member Yates stated that the airport needs to be able to have airplanes come in and out without distractions or disturbances. And finally, board Member DaHarb said it is imperative to support the avigation easement project and move forward … for the city’s protection.

At that meeting, the airport advisory board unanimously passed a motion to support avigation easements.  However, it is my understanding that council did not move forward in considering this ill-conceived and nefarious plot to subvert the rights of citizens and homeowners.  I hope that Tim Barth’s successor will have a better sense of his role as a public servant.

In my experience talking with a lot of people, residents who live near the airport expect to see and hear some airplanes.  But they also have an expectation that there will be reasonable regulations in place to minimize the impact to the community.  What we are living with now appears to be a lawless free-for-all where anything goes.

I believe the City has two viable choices for managing the future of the airport.

  1. Adopt a comprehensive noise abatement plan that includes mandatory limits on skydiving operations and addresses other local concerns, for example touch-and-goes and helicopters.  These limits may include reducing access to airport property for use as a parachute landing area – land which is currently being given away for free.
    or
  2. Close the airport.
    Those are the choices.  The current path is completely unacceptable and we cannot continue along the current path.  We can either adopt reasonable regulations and manage the airport responsibly or close it.

Thank you.

The Great Giveaway Program

News Flash: The Longmont Airport is costing you a bundle.

News Flash: The Longmont Airport is costing you a bundle.

The Colorado Division of Aeronautics is taking some well-deserved heat for grossly overestimating next year’s tax revenue from aviation fuel sales. This revenue is used to fund the Colorado Discretionary Aviation Grant Program (DAGP), which supports runway maintenance and other improvement projects for Colorado’s 74 public-use airports. The grants for 2015 were initially projected at $15 million, but they were recently revised downward to $3 million – a $12 million shortfall.

Vance Brand airport - a public resource or a giant money-pit?

Vance Brand airport – a public resource or a giant money-pit?

Colorado airport managers harshly criticized the division’s wild miscalculation. And Longmont airport manager Tim Barth stated that the funding cutbacks will hamper airport and economic growth down the line (“Colorado airport officials admit errors, vow to save grant program” (11/19). But there is more to this story than meets the eye.

For those of us who have analyzed the airport budget it is obvious, at least in Longmont’s case, that the funding crisis has been years in the making and largely self-inflicted. Longmont officials have fully embraced a budget model that relies too heavily on federal and state subsidies, and not enough on revenue from airport users – a tiny fraction of residents who actually benefit from the airport. City officials are responsible for charging reasonable fees to use airport property. Yet for many years Longmont has elected to leave money on the table, as the following examples show.

Mile-Hi not paying fees? Why??

Getting a free ride – at your expense.

The airport has designated a Parachute Landing Area, also known as a skydive drop zone, covering about 40 acres. Assuming for a moment that the best use for this prime real estate is a drop zone, shouldn’t the city earn revenue from its use?

  1. The Longmont Municipal Code (section 4.64.040) clearly specifies a $7,500 annual fee for the use of airport property and further states that no one may use this area without first obtaining an applicable permit. Yet curiously, the city is not assessing this fee. In fact, there have been no drop zone fees assessed since June 1999.
  2. In 2007 the city leased about 180,000 square feet of airport property to a skydive operator. The initial annual lease amount was $41,566 (roughly 23 cents per square foot.) The skydiving company currently enjoys the use of that land. However, that lease is still considered “inactive” and no fees have ever been assessed nor collected – ever.
  3. In 2004 and 2007 the city considered a modest $1 per jump fee, which would generate more than $30,000 in airport revenue annually. Both times, this funding option was rejected. Again in February 2012, the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) revisited the proposed fee. A brief discussion followed in which a city employee described the airport budget as “bare bones.” Still the AAB voted unanimously to strike all information regarding the skydiving jump fee from the Airport Business Plan, thus hampering any further consideration by the city council. The result: zero revenue. Longmont officials have the fiduciary duty to manage the airport finances ethically and in the best interests of the community. The first step toward solving the airport budget crisis is ending the great giveaway program. Airport users should pay a fair market rate for use of airport property – especially private businesses that are reaping enormous profits and enjoying a free ride at taxpayer expense.

Kimberly Gibbs is a Boulder County resident and the organizer of Citizens For Quiet Skies.

A Call for More Balance at Vance Brand

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

I write to express a moderate opinion regarding the current conflict between many county residents and Mile High Skydiving. We live a few miles west of the Vance Brand Airport and plainly hear the excessive and rather continuous noise from the jump planes as they climb at maximum rate, then descends under 75 percent power to expedite their subsequent loads to altitude, often within minutes of each other. It is onerous and unfortunate.

Mile-Hi Skydiving is operating within the limits of a federal law which doesn’t restrict aircraft noise or frequency of operation. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reserves the exclusive control of the skies throughout the U.S., and restricts local control of the airway system so that free, unimpeded air traffic can be unencumbered by a myriad of local regulation. This concept makes sense for air transportation of people and goods between airports.

The logic of this system breaks down, in my opinion, when those FAA regulations are used to allow a very noisy operation such as Mile-Hi Skydiving, to operate from, and back to, the same airport on a continuous basis, climbing and descending over the same areas of the county at full power settings. That doesn’t seem to me to be the intent of the FAA purpose for exclusive control of the airspace.

Tim Barth, the airport manager, has correctly used this argument in the past, stating that he has little control over activities that are regulated by the FAA. However, there have been several instances where local municipalities have successfully enacted noise control regulations at their airports. I believe that the City of Longmont does have the authority, if it so chooses, to control operations at its airport, including limiting excessive noise from planes, their hours and frequency of operation, hangar activities, etc.

The pressures to enact such control seem to come from a small part of the populous, many of whom are not city residents. So, from legislators’ “re-election perspective”, there’s little incentive to respond to complaints. Like me, there are probably many who are offended by the noise, but see little benefit of complaining to the deaf ears of the airport. Although Mile-Hi Skydiving provides little to the city in the way of taxes (it even purchases its own wholesale fuel rather than supporting the newly christened Elite Aviation) its activity does increase the utilization of the airport which probably aids in justifying federal funding.

However, the life of a small airport is fragile. Each year many across the country close due to inactivity, citizen mandate, or development pressures. Vance Brand has, so far, been relatively successful in maintaining a good support base of both the aircraft owners and the citizenry. But most of the airport tenants and pilots (I’m one) do not appreciate Mile-Hi Skydiving’s hazard to flying and their noisy activities. And more and more local citizens don’t either, resulting in deteriorated relations between the airport and the voters. Eventually there may be enough pressure from such sources to encourage a decision from legislators to move or close the airport.

Those feelings are progressing now. Many will tell you how beneficial the skydiving operation is to the airport. But many more will tell you that it is having a far more deleterious effect.

Gary Rubin lives in Longmont.

Air War on Longmont

20140618_Longmont Noise Poll Results

N125PM-otter

N125PM – the “Twin Otter” – one of Mile Hi Skydiving’s jump planes – one of the sources of excessive noise.

I’d like Longmont Airport to be the good neighbor it once was in our community, and that it could be once again. All it takes is enforcement of reasonable controls on the number of noisy Mile-Hi Skydiving flights that 37 per cent of T-C survey respondents said is by far the most irritating source of noise in Longmont.

The tragedy is that this noise isn’t coming from a public good like farming or transportation; it’s made by the pursuit of pleasure by skydivers creating large profits for a single private business – Mile-Hi Skydiving.

I live 7 miles away from the airport and I’m not under the approach or landing flyways. Now that its summer, 4 – 6 skydive planes/hour are grinding their way over my house for up to 12 hours each weekend day. They force their noise on me for 20 minutes of every hour by blasting out their penetrating brand of grinding racket that can’t be blocked from consciousness, while they rasp and claw at the sky for altitude to drop their 35,000 jumpers/year.

Here’s an example of the Mile-Hi Skydiving noise nuisance – imagine this racket coming over your house 4 – 6 times every hour, 12 hours a day, on every summer weekend day that weather permits

I’ve lived in my current home since 1990. That’s 5 years before Mile-Hi existed, and many years before they started ramping up operations with noisier aircraft and increased numbers of noisy flights that rob me of the peace and quiet I bought with my property. No, I’m not “Next to” the airport – I’m 7 milesaway and out of the regular flyways. No, I didn’t sign an airport easement – I live outside of the official “airport impact zone.” No, I’m not going to move somewhere else – I was here first, and Mile-Hi did not ask my consent to destroy the peacefulness of my neighborhood. It’s time for Mile-Hi to stop its noise bullying. The reasonable limit on the frequency of noisy skydiving flights has been exceeded.

N66GS-MileHi-LowResWeb

N66GS – another Mile Hi skydiving jump plane – one of the sources of excessive noise.

Citizens For Quiet Skies – Lawsuit Is Imminent

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

Boulder County, CO – Citizens For Quiet Skies announced today that a lawsuit is imminent regarding their efforts to address the community noise impact from Mile-Hi Skydiving jump planes.  For more than two years Quiet Skies has made efforts to work toward a cooperative solution with the skydiving operator and the city of Longmont.  These efforts have failed.  As a result, Quiet Skies has retained the law offices of Randall Weiner, a Boulder environmental law firm, to seek a remedy via the courts.

Thousands of north Boulder County residents who live under the Mile-Hi Skydiving “flight box” are affected by the noise.  The flight box extends from the Longmont airport northwest to Lyons and south to Gunbarrel, including Niwot, Hygiene.  On weekends, Mile-Hi Skydiving operates multiple aircraft concurrently, for more than 12 hours per day.  In particular, the white and purple DeHavilland Twin Otter creates the most objectionable noise, which is described as a low-frequency reverberating drone.

The city of Longmont, as the airport proprietor has the authority to regulate operations to address community noise concerns.  However, the city has continually refused to adopt reasonable regulations that would offer some measure of relief to the community.

Further details will be provided at a brief public announcement:
WHAT:   Announcement of lawsuit
WHEN:  Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30 pm
WHERE: Longmont Public Library, 409 4th Ave. Meeting room A, Longmont, main level

To find out more about Citizens For Quiet Skies:

Web:  CitizensForQuietSkies.org
Facebook:  Citizens For Quiet Skies
Primary organizer:  Kimberly Gibbs
303-530-6918
kimberly_gibbs@yahoo.com

Times Call Story was Mile-Hi propaganda

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving planes.

The “Making It Work” series highlighted local residents who make our community work, presumably in a behind-the-scenes public-service type role. I enjoyed the article about lunch lady Sandy Lenhardt, which was well deserved.

In contrast, the article featuring Mile-Hi Skydiving pilot Clayton Schultz wasn’t really about Schultz at all. Instead, it was shameful propaganda aimed at glorifying Mile-Hi Skydiving. The Mile-Hi Skydiving jump ships were highlighted, in particular the Twin Otter, which generates hundreds of noise complaints each year. Nevertheless, Schultz loves “being at a job where people are really having fun and enjoying it.” And he wants us to know that he and the others at Mile-Hi are thinking of us folks on the ground too. Indeed.

Back in 2011, Clayton and I attended a meeting with Frank Casares, owner of Mile-Hi Skydiving. I spoke on behalf of the Citizens for Quiet Skies group and explained our concerns about the incessant noise from the jump planes. The noise affects areas of Longmont and rural north Boulder County. Frank was not interested one bit in making any changes to reduce the noise impact to the community. As a result of our ongoing noise complaints, Mile-Hi Skydiving mailed us “I love airplane noise” bumper stickers.

Mile-Hi Skydiving will soon be ramping up and operating more than 12 hours a day with several aircraft, including not one but two Twin Otters. And they have plans for a significant expansion.

After exhausting other options, we are now pursuing legal action to gain relief from the noise. With your help we can prevail. If the noise bothers you, please consider making a generous donation to our legal fund. Checks can be mailed to:

Citizens for Quiet Skies
P.O. Box 19203
Boulder, CO 80308

Questions? Please join us on Facebook.

Airport Controversies and Solutions

photo by D Wray

Balancing benefits against liabilities.

As any pilot will tell you, there is nothing like overcoming the force of gravity and leaving the ground whether it is in a small aircraft or a large passenger jet.  Aircraft owners often wish the public could experience the sheer delight and joy they feel each time they take off — soaring over the earth, experiencing incredible vistas and an entirely different perspective on the entire planet.  Instead what they find is controversy on the ground they only can leave behind temporarily when in the air.

The controversies in General Aviation airports such as Boulder, Erie, and Longmont have generated much heat but not much light.  It is time to discuss the issues related to small airports in an honest and candid manner.  Much of the debate includes gross distortions and often gets overly personal.

As I told one good friend of mine who is a pilot and owns his own small plane, “The reality is small (General Aviation) airports serves an elite group of people who use it primarily for their pleasure.”  He agreed.  The truth is these airports mainly serve private citizens who love to fly.  They rarely are there for significant commercial or business purposes, and do not serve any significant community purpose.  In fact, when all factors are objectively considered, most small airports in urban areas are undesirable and have a net negative impact on the community.

In many cases, aircraft owners made substantial investments in their equipment based on their belief the small airports they use would be available to them for many years and would be properly maintained.  Often people actually bought or built homes with hangars so they could taxi out the door and onto a runway — spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

Cities and towns should honor these commitments and do what they can to see their airports are properly maintained and kept available especially to their local users.  That’s only fair.

At the same time, aircraft owners and airport operators need to be cognizant of the deleterious impacts of their activities.  Airport users generate irritating noise.  They become a liability when a minority of pilots fly noisy equipment, get out of flight patterns, or unnecessarily fly over homes and businesses.  Just as pilots love the relative calm they experience while flying and experiencing life as a bird (and sometimes a very fast bird) or having the benefit of getting to a destination quickly, citizens on the ground should not have their own enjoyment of life interrupted by a plane buzzing their home or having to inhale aircraft pollution.

Perhaps the greatest dishonesty in the debate about General Aviation airports involves the role small airports play in local economies.  The truth is small airports are non-factors.  Those who claim significant businesses will relocate to their communities thanks to the airport are deceiving themselves and others.

When it comes to the factors which go into a decision to start a major business in a community or move one to it, rarely does the presence of a small airport factor in.  There are so many more important factors ahead of whether or not a municipality has a small airport that it usually never even comes into play.  Airport supporters are deceitful by giving the impression that business owners will come to a community if it has an attractive General Aviation airport.

Just as great is the disinformation spread by airport supporters who use biased studies to claim how important an economic role their airport plays.  While it is true airports with substantial passenger traffic, such as Denver International Airport, play critical economic roles, small airports do not come close to playing a significant role. The truth is, these studies are commissioned by entities seeking expansions of airports and are done by companies who make a living doing such studies — and they know what their customers want.

For example, in advertisements once taken out by supporters of Erie’s airport, the claim was made it generates $23 million worth of economic activity.  The truth is numbers such as these are grossly inflated — generated by using dubious “multiplier effects” along with unreasonable classifications (such as all part-time employees are considered full-time employees).

A better analysis is to look at the net real estate and sales taxes generated by airports, especially when compared to what they would generate if they were developed commercially and/or residentially.  Suddenly numbers such as $25 million or $100 million shrink 90 to 95% to the thousands.  And if the comparison is made to other uses, airports often represent a net tax loss for the community.

For example, the same study which claimed Erie’s airport had an economic impact of about $23 million calculated the taxes paid by General Aviation visitors totaled less than $75,000.  And sales taxes for all categories totaled under $200,000. Even these numbers were likely to have been inflated. And, as mentioned, if the same property were used for more typical retail and commercial operations, small airports lose money their communities might otherwise get.

Similarly, some airport proponents argue more visitors means more fuel sales but most people don’t know that airports which sell fuel do not send any of those revenues to their local communities.  The reality is small airports generate small amounts of revenue for municipalities.  And expanding small airports will not generate substantial new jobs or tax revenue.

Even worse, the discomfort inflicted by small airports means externalities — such as noise pollution, waking people at all hours of the night, and disturbing a community’s enjoyment of its property — are subsidizing airport activities.  If a Free Market price were put on these factors, the conclusion would be that small airports have a net negative impact on a community (including from an economic development perspective).

The truth is no one should expect small airports ever will be a major factor in economic development.  And there simply isn’t a set of good examples in similarly-sized communities.

The battles between small airports and their neighbors continue in different ways in the three aforementioned communities.  In Boulder, the airport is so restricted and, due to the size of Boulder’s economy, it is barely noticeable to the broader community.  In Longmont, although disturbing airport-related activities have mobilized many citizens, the city’s economy dwarfs whatever contribution the airport might make.  In Erie, due to its small population and tax base, airport supporters have found it easy to win elections to the Board of Trustees and, as a result, have had a disproportionate say in the Town’s decisions for a long time.  In addition, Erie has far less economic activity than Boulder or Longmont so an airport operation of any size looks attractive if the externalities are ignored.  In the long run, though, this is a mistake.

So what should we do?  First, we should honor the commitments made to those who fly and who have invested so much in their aircraft and homes.  This means making sure airports are properly maintained and supporting expenditures.  These costs usually are funded by the Federal Government primarily from Passenger Fees paid by commercial business and leisure travelers, such as everyone taking flights from DIA.

Second, we should get pilots, airport operators, and unhappy community members together to find solutions to problems created by the aircraft and airport operations.  There are many possibilities — ranging from adjustments in flight patterns to agreements for operating aircraft more courteously.  Tougher issues, such as helicopter or skydiving operations, may involve reducing operations or restricting days and hours in some form of compromise which allows the business to continue but minimizes the disruptions they impose on the public.  And in some cases, it makes sense for an airport to say, “No thank you” to certain obnoxious operations. Just because an airport can support operations which are a nuisance for a community does not mean it should allow them.

Third, it makes the most sense to agree to not expand the airports.  The people who have aircraft knew what their local airport could support so there is no basis for any airport expansion.  With the reality that any expansion will have only a minimal economic effect, if any, there is no financial reason to create conditions which will attract more traffic or planes which are noisier.  Just as aircraft owners like to say to their neighbors, “How can you complain about the airport when you knew it was there when you moved in?” airport opponents can retort, “How can you say any expansion is needed when you knew from the start what the airport’s limitations were?”

By maintaining the commitment pilots and aircraft owners reasonably expect, a community meets whatever obligations one could rationally argue it has.  And by doing their best to minimize the disruption and annoyance they cause, pilots and aircraft owners can become better members of the community.  In the long run, this is the win/win path for everyone.


Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at www.HarberTV.com.  He once was one of the nation’s most frequent flyers and accumulated almost 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles.  He lives near the Erie Airport.   Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2012 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.

Transparency difficult for Mi-Hile supporters

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Mile-Hi Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

The noise from Mile-Hi Skydiving jump planes does not bother Ricky Lee Landrum one bit (Open Forum, Oct. 4). Mr. Landrum states that he lives near the airport and is a frequent golfer who plays at Twin Peaks Golf Course.

First, it’s curious that he is just now responding to my letter from three months ago. Second, Mr. Landrum fails to mention that he is an avid skydiver, as shown in his bio on the OpenStage Theatre and Company website.

The Mile-Hi jump planes operate for up to 12 hours or more a day, including every Saturday and Sunday. They climb aggressively over our homes and circle constantly over north Boulder County. It may not bother folks who are hard of hearing or who spend their days inside an air-conditioned home with the TV blaring. But for those who prefer to live with the windows open, or who spend a lot of time outdoors, the ubiquitous drone is quite irritating.

In 2007, Mile-Hi Skydiving executed a new Specialty Based Operator airport lease agreement with the city. According to the lease terms, South Parcel 11SD, which covers 180,723 square feet, will accommodate a greatly expanded skydiving center. This 20-year lease is currently inactive and will become effective when Mile-Hi breaks ground on construction of the new facility.

It is important to understand that Mile-Hi Skydiving aims to be one of the biggest skydiving centers in the country. Currently, it operates several jump planes concurrently, including two very noisy de Havilland Twin Otters. When Mile-Hi expands, presumably after the economy recovers just a bit more, we can all look forward to hearing several more jump planes operating concurrently. This news should be alarming to anyone who cares about their quality of life and property values.

Longmont city government, how transparent are you really?

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council at its Tuesday, July 17, 2012 session.

Photo by FreeRangeLongmont.com

Chris Rodriguez – wrong for the Airport Advisory Board

I would like to speak to you about transparency in government and the internet.

A couple months ago the Longmont Airport Facebook site posted a message about Mile-Hi Skydiving sending their critics bumper stickers reading “I Love Airplane Noise”. This website is unofficial – meaning that the content is not managed by city staff. I was curious to know who’s behind the proverbial curtain. That content would seem inappropriate if it came from a city official. Tim Barth, the airport manager, said that he didn’t know who manages the site, but he was certain that it was no one connected with the city.

As it turns out Chris Rodriguez manages that website. On May 10th he wrote that members of “Quiet Skies” had demanded the website be deleted. As the leader of Quiet Skies, I can assure you that is an outright lie. What could be his motivation for making this claim? For the record, the Mile-Hi jump planes are creating a very real public noise nuisance. But with ethical leadership, there can be peace between the airport and the local community.

So, who is Chris Rodriguez? You may recall his recent editorial criticizing the anti-fracking petition that’s being circulated. He is a blogger and activist who manages the LongmontPolitics website where he refers to the “lefty loonies”. On his LightningRod blog he encouraged harassment of the “pitchfork vigilantes”, including myself, who dared to complain about the jump plane noise.

But more importantly, Chris Rodriguez serves as the Chairman of the Longmont Airport Advisory Board. That board meets right here in these chambers, and he sits right there where the mayor sits. As a quasi public official, he holds an influential position over airport policies that affect the community.

He has every right, as an individual, to advocate for special interests and say whatever he believes, no matter how disconnected from reality. But Chris Rodriguez has no business serving on the Airport Advisory Board.

Gibbs gives Jr. a spanking for lying

Maybe it’s the thin air

You, the pesky commoner, have no right to expect a high quality of life, according to Benjamin C. Harper Jr. (Open Forum, May 1 and June 29). Stop “sniveling” about the constant jump plane noise. When you “green stalwarts” feel compelled to speak up about the health and nuisance concerns associated with fracking, just zip it. In his view, we should all gladly live with these inconveniences “in the spirit of coexistence” so that businesses may operate with unbridled freedom. I heartily disagree. The burden of accommodation should be placed where it rightly belongs, on the industry — not on the backs of ordinary citizens.

Mr. Harper’s derisive and inaccurate comments have one aim: to silence critics of the airport and the oil and gas industry. And he gets it wrong on all counts. First, there is no effort to “shut down” Mile-Hi Skydiving. The Quiet Skies citizen group that I represent has repeatedly asked the city to adopt reasonable regulations aimed at curbing the excessive noise. So far the city has failed miserably in that regard.

Second, Mr. Harper states that the city of Longmont, the entity that owns and operates the airport, has no authority to determine whether the airport is expanded. Nonsense. The city has exclusive authority over whether to allow airport expansion.

And finally, he repeats the well-worn lie that only three people are really bothered by the jump plane noise.

We have worked hard to achieve a congenial solution to the jump plane noise nuisance, so far to no avail. A similar scenario has played out with fracking, an issue with truly major consequences.

You, the voting public, can stand up for local quality of life issues by voting out the Longmont City Council members who have no idea what it means to be a true public servant.

Mile High Arrogance

This is what a ‘professional’ at Mile High Skydiving considers funny: sending a community activist* a large-format mailer (source has been verified**):

Large-format envelope, they paid extra for this middle finger.

containing a low-grade laserprinted color poster:

I don't find this admirable at all - it's crude and high-school childish.

COMPLIMENTS OF MILE-HI SKYDIVING CENTER HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!

and a crude, cheaply-made bumper sticker:

When will this one land on Airport Road?

I LOVE AIRPLANE NOISE

Nothing says ‘little town’ more viciously than immature thugs with money and idle time.

The thing is, they seem to spend their time and money (but not much) doing ‘pranks’*** when they really need to be working more on their safety record:

I have to say, from a personal point of view, this information does not inspire respect in me.

In fact, something like this, in my opinion, has the aspect of an upraised middle finger.

Longmont, every time you hear that loud droning remember: you “love airplane noise.

Get used to more of it.

All the time.

Every day.

And night.


*  Who’s fighting a nuisance his business is creating. Oh, and the members of the organization – all homeowners.

** Mile High’s management gleefully admitted to doing it in an article in the Longmont Times-Call.

*** That I suspect nearly no one finds funny. It’s in the same class as soaping car windows and flaming bags of poop on doorsteps.