Cumberland Times-News

May 17, 2013

Skydiving business operating at aiport

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— WILEY FORD, W.Va. — The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport may see a skydiving outfit and a substation of the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department on the grounds in the future. On Thursday, Potomac Highlands Airport Authority members voted unanimously to enter into a commercial agreement with SkyDive Deep Creek to offer skydiving, pending an insurance review.

Skydiving would be offered Friday through Sunday from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. out of hangar 25, according to Neil Porter of SkyDive Deep Creek, who has run a drop zone in Colorado for about five years.

The authority also voted to allow SkyDive Deep Creek to continue temporary operations. The authority had granted the company temporary permission for the past several weekends to allow it to start skydiving operations out of the airport. Skydiving took place during the autocross earlier this month.

“I haven’t had any negative feedback. I have had a lot of positive feedback,” said Ryan Shaffer, airport manager.

SkyDive Deep Creek has already presold 400 tandems, where a student skydiver is connected to a harness attached to an instructor.

Porter started working with the Garrett County Airport about eight months ago but encountered a problem with a $1 million general liability insurance policy that was requested by county risk management, Porter said.

“I’ve been informed by the people that we have our insurance through that general liabilities typically excludes aviation. In aviation terms they call it premises liability,” said Porter. “Same idea, different name. Somehow it just got held up there for weeks.”

Dave Weimer, authority member, said the Garrett County commissioners weren’t in favor of the idea.

Porter said Shaffer has been very helpful in moving forward with the business.

“I got a hold of Ryan, who was frankly able to do in two days what they couldn’t do in eight months,” said Porter.

The amount of liability insurance required will be determined by the authority, according to Porter.

SkyDive Deep Creek would have two landing areas — a primary area for tandem operations and a separate area for students — both of which meet all the land requirements. First-time jumpers who are jumping by themselves under radial control are required to be 100 meters from the nearest obstacle, according to Porter. Runways and taxiways are not considered obstacles but antennas are. Porter’s only request was that pilots avoid flying 12,000 feet and below over the landing area. 

Jumps can occur as long as there is 3,500 feet of ceiling and winds are roughly below 25 knots, or about 28 mph, said Porter. 

Porter started parachuting in the army and has been skydiving for about 10 years.

Authority members also voted unanimously to allow Shaffer to enter into a discussion with Sheriff Jeremy Taylor about a proposed substation.  

The space would need to be large enough for a couple of desks and would need Internet capability, according to Dr. Richard Lechliter, an authority member, who was filling in as chairman. The substation would be used for officers to fill out reports instead of having to go back to their office in Keyser.

“It would be a quicker response,” said Lechliter, who is also a Mineral County commissioner. “It would be a help to our county to have a substation of the Mineral County sheriff here and it would also be a good incentive to attract some other business or other activities to the airport itself.”

Nick Scarpelli, authority member, questioned whether the sheriff’s department would have to pay rent. Shaffer said that would have to be discussed but that the presence of officers would help to deter crime and would be a valuable asset to the airport.

In other airport news, fuel sales are up and the maintenance shop is busy, said Gregg Wolff, authority treasurer.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.