Council OKs Policy Changes for Skydiving Operations

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In anticipation of a proposed skydiving business at the Hermiston Municipal Airport, the Hermiston City Council on Monday night established a set of minimum standards for the operation.

Former Hermiston resident Ron Storment has approached the city about the possibility of conducting skydiving operations at the airport. Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said Storment intends to operate on a limited basis during the Umatilla County Fair with plans to begin full-time operations in 2014.

Because the airport receives grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration, it is legally obligated to make the airport available for all types of aeronautical activity without “unjust discrimination,” meaning the city cannot deny a skydiving operation the use of the airport. The airport can, however, adopt different sets of requirements for different types of activities.

Earlier this month, the Airport Board proposed some policy amendments to address the potential for a skydiving business at the airport. On Monday the city council voted 7-1 to approve those amendments, which include requiring the business to maintain $2 million in liability insurance, make improvements to the airport’s parachute landing area and make sure the drop zone is at least 40 feet from any potential hazards.

The existing policy for commercial operations at the airport states that operators must maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance. Morgan said that the FFA recently ruled that certain activities carry a higher risk than others, therefore the airport can establish higher liability insurance requirements for those activities.

Hermiston City Councilor John Kirwan said he was in favor of the skydiving operation.

“It can bring a lot of extra business to Hermiston,” he said.

Fellow Councilor Frank Harkenrider was the lone “no” vote Monday night. He said he thought a skydiving business presented too much risk to the city.