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Creswell acts to restrict skydive firms.

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

CRESWELL - Skydivers won't resume landing at Creswell Airport anytime soon - if ever - under action by the City Council.

After conferring with its attorney in a lengthy executive session Monday night, the council voted unanimously to direct the city staff to "immediately enforce airport regulations ... in the interest of citizens' health, safety and well-being."

The motion referenced a 2003 ordinance that prohibits, among other things, violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The law provides penalties of $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

It was the City Council's first action in a tense 18-month standoff between city airport officials and two skydiving companies over the safety of a longtime "drop zone" on airport property and a nearby, state-owned field. No citations were issued Tuesday, City Administrator Mark Shrives said.

Eugene Skydivers and Wright Brothers Skydiving were forced to find new parachute landing areas this summer, after both the city and the state withdrew permission for skydivers to continue using the longtime drop zone. Both cited concerns about safety and liability.

Urban Moore, owner of Eugene Skydivers, has moved his landing zone to a field several miles north of the airport. The change has hurt him financially because the time spent driving skydivers back to the airport slows the turnaround time between jumps, Moore's attorney said Monday.

David Wright of Wright Brothers has secured permission to use a farmer's field just east of the airport, with skydivers walking across airport property - including a runway - to return to the Wright Brothers hangar along the western edge of the airport.

It would appear that the latter practice - or any skydivers passing too low over the airport or its landing pattern - could violate a warning from Larry Richards, manager of the FAA's Flight Standards District Office in Hillsboro. In a letter sent to both Wright and Moore, Richards said skydiving companies, skydive pilots and parachutists who continue operations "over or on this airport will be investigated for possible violation" of FAA regulations.

And in a letter to Richards recapping the district manager's Aug. 23 visit to inspect the Creswell Airport, Shrives said he understood that "runway incursions" there were a "high priority concern" for the FAA.

In a letter of his own to the FAA last week, Moore asked the director of the agency's Airports District Office in Seattle to intervene on behalf of the skydive operators. Moore charged that Creswell's withdrawal of permission to use the longtime drop zone violates his lease, which runs for six more years, followed by his right to renew it for two additional 10-year terms.

Moore called the city's claims of safety problems "unfounded," saying he has operated at the airport for 14 years without any accidents involving inadequate separation between skydivers and other aircraft. Moore's complaint also referenced a court case in which a Tennessee airport was ordered to reinstate its drop zone because skydiving must be accommodated as a legitimate aeronautical activity.

And on Monday, he filed a defamation lawsuit in Lane County Circuit Court against Paul Preziose, a Creswell-based flight instructor who has filed numerous FAA safety complaints against Moore.

Moore's complaint, which also alleges interference with business relations, accused Preziose of trying to run Eugene Skydivers "off the airport and out of business" by alleging near misses and "a 3-page list of violations" by the skydive company.

The complaint calls the allegations misleading or outright false and seeks economic and noneconomic damages of $1.7 million.

Preziose could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
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Title Annotation:Government; The city wades into a standoff between operators and airport officials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 13, 2006
Words:587
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