Thursday, August 01, 2013

Saker Aviation Sues Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (KAVP), Pennsylvania

Saker Aviation Services filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport officials from awarding a contract to run crucial airport work to another company.

Saker Aviation Services is the airport's current "fixed base operator," defined by the Federal Aviation Administration as a business granted the right to operate on an airport and provide aeronautical services. Those include fueling, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, hangar rentals and parking.

Saker's contract expires Aug. 31, and the Bi-County Airport Board on July 18 authorized airport officials to negotiate a contract with Aviation Technologies to replace Saker through Aug. 31, 2028.

Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien, vice chairman of the Bi-County Airport Board, said on Wednesday it is airport policy to not discuss pending litigation like the lawsuit filed in Lackawanna County Court Monday.

Saker argues in the lawsuit that airport officials breached their contract by not negotiating an extension in good faith when the current agreement grants them right of first refusal. The company said airport officials "prematurely ended negotiations by issuing the (request for proposals) in April."

Per the airport's request, Saker's lawsuit said, the company was willing to invest $150,000 in customer service and pilot lounge refurbishments, new entry awnings, a new sump pump recovery system, installation of an internal security camera system and repairing or replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning rapid air unit in the hangar.

Saker argued the request for proposals process "was fundamentally flawed" and biased against them because the proposal criteria was similar to Saker's February proposal.

"From the year 2006 through 2012, Saker Aviation has invested approximately $1 million in capital improvements at AVP," the lawsuit reads. "During those years, Saker also paid $1.5 million in rents and fees to AVP."

If the Nevada-based company and its local subsidiary, FBO Wilkes-Barre Inc., are not allowed to renew the lease, the lawsuit said "many jobs will be lost (among 34 local employees) and various harms suffered."

In making a recommendation to the airport board, Assistant Airport Director Michael Conner spoke highly of Aviation Technologies.

"Aviation Technologies' proposal indicates a genuine concern for increasing local business, for expanded community involvement and proposed investment in the airport that exceeds all the other proposals," Mr. Conner said. "Aviation Technologies is also providing scheduled air services to communities under the Federal Aviation Essential Air Service Program. Their ability to provide and service scheduled air carriers could lead to increased air service at AVP to destinations we currently do not serve."