Airport officials aim to ground skydivers until flap settled
Sunday, 04 August 2013 00:00

skydiversClaiming that Skydive Greater, operating out of the Greater Kankakee Airport since late April, is working outside of its lease, airport officials are trying to ground the endeavor.

A notice to quit, authored by Kankakee Valley Airport Authority board attorney L. Patrick Power, was sent earlier this month to Larry Knipper and Brad Vancina, the owners of the skydiving business.

Airport officials said the business only has a storage lease, not the needed lease to operate a commercial business.

If the matter is not resolved, the KVAA likely will take the matter to the Kankakee County Circuit Court, an official noted.

"They are saying we are in violation of the lease agreement," Vancina said. "... We're willing to do whatever we can do to make things work and maintain our hangar."

According to Power, Skydive Greater is a commercial business and Knipper and Vancina only have a lease to operate and store their aircraft at the airport, not operate a business. To operate a business at that location, a commercial lease is needed.

Power said despite being told of this situation, the business has continued to operate there. In the notice to Knipper, Power wrote that if he does not comply, the lease will be terminated and the hangar cleared.

Knipper signed a hangar lease on May 1, 2011. The lease states that the "Lessee shall utilize the premises for the sole purchase of storage of the aircraft."

Vancina confirmed that tandem skydiving business is indeed in operation. He estimated some 125 tandem skydives have taken place as well as a number of other jumps. He said jumpers from across the Midwest have traveled to the Greater Kankakee Airport to experience a jump.

A first tandem jump cost $180.

Bob Glade, KVAA chairman, said Friday the authority is not looking to be the bad guy. The authority simply wants the skydiving business to have the proper lease and insurance.

"We are not discouraging skydiving whatsoever. We think they are a plus for the airport," he said. "But they have to play by the same rules as everyone else."

Vancina claims other airport hangar tenants are operating businesses there without commercial licenses. Glade and Power said they are not aware of any such situation.

"We are trying to resolve this problem, but it's not coming easy," Glade said.

The two sides appear to be arguing over terminology. Vancina said its a skydiving club. Power said it's a commercial business.

"We gave them permission to operate as a club, and they are advertising [Skydive Greater] all over the place," Glade said. "They are operating a business, and we don't have adequate insurance for them."


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