For about 20 years, Cathie Schlatter has been parachuting at Frankfort’s airport. She has six more days. Skydive Indiana decided to pack up its parachutes and leave the Frankfort airport at Thursday night’s Frankfort Airport Authority meeting.
Dave Geyer, president of Skydive Indiana, presented the authority a contract to sell his hangar for $90,000, and the authority accepted, said Mike Reeder, president of the airport authority. Geyer has been in Frankfort for nine years and was in the fourth year of a 20-year lease with an option for five additional years.
“They made us an offer to buy the building and cease operations, and we accepted,” Reeder said.
Schlatter said Frankfort’s days of having sky divers are over.
“Nobody wants to come here,” she said. “Frankfort’s airport has a reputation for being hostile, not just in the jumping community, but in the entire aviation community. (Geyer) was forced to close up shop. It’s sad for me because it used to be so different. Frankfort’s airport used to be a really fun place to go.”
Now Schlatter and other Skydive customers will search for another landing zone, she said.
“When a restaurant closes up, you go down the street and look for another one,” she sad. “For us, it’s a little harder. But lots of communities love us.”
Skydive Indiana will stop jumping at the airport within the next week and will vacate the premises within 30 days, according to the resolution signed by the authority.
Skydive Indiana has battled both the authority and Frankfort Flight Services, who runs the day-to-day operations of the airport, for the past two years.
In April 2001, Frankfort Flight Services demanded Skydive Indiana stop allowing parachutists to land at the airport because it was dangerous to the parachutists and planes. In response, Skydive Indiana went to court. Three months later, the move landed both sides in federal court.
Eventually, both sides agreed to let the jumpers return to the Frankfort airport on weekends until the FAA decided whether they are safe. Skydive Indiana also agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against the authority and the city.
Last month, Geyer complained that the reduced hours hampered his business and that his jumpers suffered harassment from the airport’s management.
In 1999, Skydive Indiana customers performed 6,000 jumps; in 2000, they did 5,800 and in 2001 they did 3,300, Geyer said.
Even though Skydive Indiana will not be jumping at the airport, the FAA will still make a ruling, Reeder said.
“(The FAA) won’t just drop this,” he said. “I don’t know when, but they will make a ruling.”
The authority is not sure what it will do with the hangar, Reeder said.
“We might work with the city engineer and fire chief to see if we can rent it for aircrafts,” he said. “It could act as storage, although other options are available.”
Skydive Indiana and Frankfort Flight Service first clashed in July 2000, when both wanted to manage the airport. The authority was unable to decide, with former authority members Stan Smith and Bill Clinton in favor of Geyer’s group and Reeder and Gene Watchbaugh in favor of Frankfort Flight Services.
The authority turned the decision over to the Frankfort City Council, and Frankfort Flight Services was awarded the contract. In the following year, both Smith and Clinton were not reappointed to the authority by Mayor Roy Scott.
Geyer could not be reached this morning for comment.