Tag Archive for Mile-Hi Skydiving

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.

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.

Scepticism exists over economic benefit of airport runway extension

The following was addressed to Longmont City Council on March 14,2011, in response to the presentation of the final three chapters of the Airport Master Plan. This Airport Master Plan is controversial because of the inclusion of a runway extension at Vance Brand Airport. In addition, an ongoing controversy exists over the noise generated by Mile-Hi Skydiving by their dawn to dusk operation during good weather.

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport 11-2-2011

I would like to comment on the airport master plan and urge you to remove the runway extension from the plan. I believe the runway extension will increase airplane traffic and result in more environmental impacts, especially noise.

A major justification for the airport expansion is that it will create jobs. Chapter 8 of the master plan, titled “Airport Economic Impacts” summarizes the economic benefits of the airport on the region’s economy.

For example, “In 2010 the airport supported an estimated 257 jobs in Colorado that earned a total of $5.3 million.” First, these jobs are not necessarily in Longmont. And second, if you do the math that works out to an average salary of $20,622 annually. The scope of the master plan is limited and does not provide any context for these figures.

Chapter 8 devotes a lot of attention to Mile-Hi Skydiving Center – as they are one of the top two employers. The report states “In 2010, the payroll and benefits at each of these companies exceeded $100,000.” Is that a lot? Does the economic benefit justify the cost to the community of living under a blanket of noise? Let’s put the $100,000 payroll in perspective.

For comparison, Chapter 8 mentions a few specific companies in Longmont – IBM, Seagate, Intel and Amgen. These companies employ skilled workers. The average salary for a software engineer is about $100,000 – for one employee. A healthy economy relies on a diverse employment base, but higher salaries generate a bigger impact within the local economy.

Consider also the new Covidien Research and Innovation Center located in Gunbarrel. Covidien employs 1,800 skilled workers locally. They chose to locate in Boulder County because “The culture of innovation here is second to none.” These are the businesses that will lead to economic prosperity. They don’t require being next door to an airport and they don’t rely on government subsidies to remain viable.

The way to build a strong economy in Longmont is by providing a high quality of life, and attracting manufacturing and high-tech companies – not by extending the runway.

Quieter skies are needed

Editor’s Note: Ms. Gibbs presented the following to Longmont City Council at it’s Regular Session on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Twin Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

My home is located in Gunbarrel, about 8 miles from Vance Brand airport. I’m here to speak in support of the Citizens for Quiet Skies and for the proposed review of Mile-Hi Skydiving operations. which Mr. Bowker spoke about.

I would like to welcome the new council and also commend Mr. Bagley for publicly acknowledging that Mile-Hi is imposing a serious noise problem. In view of increasing public concern and frustration, I believe that council members who continue to deny there is a problem will be perceived as out of touch. You have the opportunity to be heroes among the citizens of Longmont and neighbors like me by facing this issue head on.

There is sufficient justification at this time to conduct a review and the resulting noise abatement strategy may necessarily include multiple components.

For example, section 4.4 of the Mile-Hi Specialty-Based Operator lease provides an example of a possible restriction aimed at reducing the impact of Mile-Hi Skydiving operations: To paraphrase, it states that as a result of meetings to evaluate their impact to the community the City will “determine if any adjustments or limitations are necessary to the skydiving operation, including but not limited to reduced hours of operation.”

During my research, I came across an October 2006 City Council Communication. In part, this memo discussed “community concerns and impacts” and sought to compare Mile-Hi Skydiving with “similar skydive operators”. The memo goes on to say that “Deland Municipal Airport, located in Deland Florida, is one of the few public airports that has a skydive operation similar to Longmont.” The DeLand skydive operator there also has multiple aircraft, including a Twin Otter. Of course, I was interested to learn more so I called Nik Landgraf, the Deland Airport Manager.

I asked him about the Twin Otter and whether it generated a lot of complaints. He told me that the flight training school generated more complaints and that the skydiving company had voluntarily installed what’s called a hush kit to reduce noise on their Twin Otter. The particular kit is manufactured by MT Propeller and costs about $100,000 to install.

Also, as a result of community concerns, the City of Deland commissioned a formal noise study to provide objective data and assist with their efforts. I agree with their approach. As an analytical person, I believe we can make better choices by evaluating real data – a noise study is an important component of our proposed review and I hope you will give it serious consideration.

Among the conclusions provided in the report is an outline of several FAA-approved measures that the City, as the airport proprietor, has direct authority to implement. One example taken from their report is “Adopting mandatory restrictions based on aircraft noise characteristics.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Otter be a better way

You'll be hearing this ALL WEEKEND, get ready

This weekend Mile-Hi Skydiving will be aiming to set a Colorado State record for a formation skydive linking 70+ skydivers together in the air at one time. Instead of the usual 3 aircraft in operation, they will be using 5.

I’m sure that Mile-Hi Skydiving and the participating skydivers feel that they are striving for a laudable and daring stunt. But for thousands of Boulder County residents who live in Longmont, Niwot, Gunbarrel and beyond, it promises to be another weekend filled with obnoxious, tormenting airplane noise. Sure, I realize that some folks may actually “like” the reverberating sound of the Mile-Hi Twin Otter – just like some people like the sound of incessantly barking dogs and leaf blowers. But for most of us, enjoying the great outdoors on the weekend in relative peace and quiet is a simple pleasure that we truly appreciate. For many of us, the rural character of Boulder County enticed us to live here.

So, when you’re outside this weekend, take a moment to listen. That loud plane circling continuously high above is Mile-Hi Skydiving. They do not give a hoot about the noise they are creating nor your quality of life. To learn more about our efforts to address this problem, please contact us at SayNoToSkydiving@yahoo.com.

“Imagine listening to your neighbor mow their lawn — for 12 hours a day!”

Fearless lawnmowers from the sky?

Mile-Hi Skydiving noise reaches far beyond the Airport Influence Zone and Teresa Foster’s neighborhood. I live in Gunbarrel, eight miles from Vance Brand Airport and several miles outside the AIZ.

According to Mile-Hi’s website, its fleet of aircraft has the capacity to “rocket” jumpers to 18,000 feet in 10 minutes and “drop 100 jumpers per hour,” resulting in more than 35,000 jumps annually. Unfortunately, this thrilling entertainment ruins the quality of life for those of us on the ground. Starting before 8 a.m. and going until sunset (including Saturday and Sunday), their fleet is in full swing. The Twin Otter with blue markings circles around Niwot and as far south as my home in Gunbarrel Estates. The constant, loud hum travels for miles and at times is deafening. We cannot enjoy time in our yard or on the extensive trail system and open space. Imagine listening to your neighbor mow their lawn — for 12 hours a day!

The noise from the Mile-Hi skydiving planes imposes an unacceptable nuisance on thousands of nearby residents. Unfortunately, pleas to the City Council for relief continue to fall on deaf ears. Moreover, they are seeking to extend the runway, which will allow larger and noisier planes — how insulting to the ordinary residents of Longmont and surrounding communities.

As the Vance Brand Airport proprietor, it is the city’s responsibility to address this urgent problem. Appropriate mitigation efforts would include installing acoustical monitoring equipment to collect air traffic data, rescinding or restricting the lease with Mile-Hi Skydiving and abandoning the runway expansion initiative. If the city continues to ignore us, we will work diligently to elect members who genuinely represent their constituents instead of well-funded special interests. You can learn more about this effort by contacting me at kimberly_gibbs@yahoo.com.

A whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on

It's a sucker's game

Longmont is due for an Airport Master Plan update. These occur every five to seven years and the last time Longmont’s plan was updated occurred in 2004. Having an update is not the source of the most recent Longmont controversy that has all the makings of the next LifeBridge-style dust-up. The argument has been threefold:

  • What should be covered in the updated Master Plan or in supplemental analyses?
  • Who gets a seat at the table and will opponents have a voice equal to supporters?
  • Is this study nothing more than cover for a decision to extend the runway that has already been made?

I don’t especially have a dog in this fight. I like airplanes and I’ve flown in several types of aircraft. I’ve flown in large commercial jets of varying sizes and I’ve flown in 10-seater business commercial jets, of the type that are imagined if the Longmont runway is extended. I’ve flown in four-seater prop planes. And I’ve even flown in a glider and a World War II plane used to lift the glider to the wind current. I thoroughly enjoy takeoffs and landings.

Two of the homes that I lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles were under the flight path to Burbank Airport. The home in the West Valley was no problem. I didn’t even notice – except when a jet was coming in heavy with the tell-tale whine that always made me wonder if the plane was in trouble. Living in the home in the East Valley which was closer to Burbank Airport, however, posed persistent noise issues – whether inside or out. It strained nerves and made it hard to hear. Fortunately, I’m a sound sleeper, but my mother wasn’t.

So I have empathy for those in Longmont who have huge issues with the skydivers, dread the addition of jets, albeit small ones, and even more are livid that Mile-Hi Skydiving has plans for yet another sky diving craft. On any number of scales, it’s a quality of life issue that impacts many over an economic issue that is has all the trappings of a pipe dream.

Beyond the merits of the issue itself is something that should bother all Longmont residents whether or not they live in an area that will be most affected by any expansion.

The City of Longmont is playing something of a shell game on this issue. To put it another way: A whole lotta lyin’ is goin’ on over the Airport Master Plan and the ultimate outcome.

In spite of what certain council members are saying on camera at council meetings, there is a majority that has already made up its individual minds. That majority is Mayor Bryan Baum and Council Members Katie Witt, Gabe Santos, and Alex Sammoury. They deny it, but an Open Records Request by CARE (Citizens Against Runway Extension) revealed otherwise – not to mention a number of meetings earlier this year where a runway extension was promoted to groups in the vicinity of the airport by none other than the Mayor Baum and Ms. Witt. Baum doesn’t like being cornered so he’ll try to bully his way out of this, as he’s done before.

Mayor Baum and Council Member Witt undoubtedly thought they were getting out ahead of any problems and planned to grease the skids in favor of an extension in hopes of clear sailing. Flawed strategy and flawed judgment call.

And as far as city staff, here’s how that works. Index fingers get raised in the wind to determine its direction and the weather report is given accordingly. What is not welcome is either omitted or spun towards favorability. After all, there are jobs to be protected, especially in today’s market. It wouldn’t be prudent to offend Power. Firings and instructions to fire can hurt.

The FAA, already charged with facilitating expansion of airports, will be giving “cover” to a council who has already boarded this flight.

Until and unless Mayor Baum releases a list of businesses who (A) did not come to Longmont because its airport runway was too short, and (B) will come to Longmont when it has a longer runway, it’s all just wind and the turbulence is justified. Numbers have been thrown around, but they never have names attached to them. It begs the question, do they even exist.

Presumably John Cody of the Longmont Area Economic Council would know who these companies are – if they exist. I challenge him to name names – all of them. It’s time for him to put up or shut up and cease pretending that this information is confidential.

Whether council, staff or LAEC, this issue is too important to too many residents for them to accept “Trust me” as an answer.

This new council, whose majority I refer to as The Baum Squad, has an agenda. They will carry it out and only pretend to be concerned about public sentiment. They like to say that they want to make Longmont “business friendly” or “open for business.” That’s a euphemism for saying that Longmont is For Sale – at foreclosure prices – for whatever business wants, business will get.