Sunday, February 12, 2012

More Hemet-Ryan shenanigans

The County of Riverside is determined to force gliders to stop operating at Hemet-Ryan Airport. The FAA ruled that we have the right to fly there, and ruled that the management must negotiate in good faith with us. But the FAA does not oversee the details of the negotiation process, and will only step in if we formally protest again.

First, the CoR wanted us to fit into an FBO model, offering a full range of aviation services (repairs, instruction, rental, etc.), and tried to enforce some "minimum standards" for amount of land and hangar space we must rent.

They eventually said we could rent just an acre of land for tiedowns, or just a hangar for storage. But they are not offering a lease of any specific duration, they are only offering a month-to-month rental. That would make it tough to rent tiedown space to private pilots - who would place their glider there if they knew they could be evicted at any time? And what club would invest in any kind of improvements to the tiedowns, hangar, or land if they knew they could be kicked out and their improvements seized or destroyed at any time?

We could rent tiedown space at the power-plane FBO that exists, but guess what? The tiedowns are of the ring-in-the-ground kind, and sized for GA aircraft, not the staked-down-cable kind. Gliders don't fit into them. We tried. We could use two spaces, but guess what? The CoR insists that the FBO charge us for two spaces AND charge us parking for the glider trailers. So that works out to about $150 per month per glider. That doesn't fit into a club's budget.

So the FBO rented us some space in a dirt area that they lease, and we put down stakes sized for our gliders. Guess what? The CoR orders the FBO to tell us to vacate that space, that tying down in the dirt is "incompatible" with the intended use of that space, and the FBO is forced to go along with it. Guess what? There's a nice twin-engine Beechcraft, some other twin, and two privately-owned military jets also tied down in the dirt. If the CoR does not force them to move, then we will have some pretty solid grounds for a complaint of selective enforcement with the FAA.


I'm sure there's more to the story than this, but this is what I have observed so far.

We're moving our aircraft to other gliderports, because we have no choice, but that does not mean we are done battling the County of Riverside. There are significant principles at stake here, and we are not giving up.

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