In a ruling on February 21, 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dismissed six out of seven claims made by Timberview Helicopters against Okaloosa County.
- The case stems from the termination of Timberview’s operating agreement with the Destin Executive Airport in August 2021, which the company had challenged in a Part 16 Complaint.
The decision to terminate the operating agreement was made by the Commissioners in an effort to address various concerns related to helicopter operations, including the impact on the quality of life in Destin, safety issues, tourism, and the mission of the military.
- However, the FAA ruled in Timberview’s favor on one claim, stating that Okaloosa County violated Grant Assurance 22, Economic Discrimination, by imposing unreasonable requirements not equitably applied to other similar users.
- Grant Assurance 22 provides that an “airport sponsor will make the airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities, including commercial aeronautical activities offering services to the public at the airport.”
As a result of the ruling, Okaloosa County must either appeal the ruling or submit a corrective action plan to the FAA within 30 days, allowing Timberview to return to DTS.
The corrective action plan must explain in detail “how the county intends to return the airport to compliance with its Federal grant assurances concerning the elimination of unfair and unjust discrimination in the form of unreasonable requirements.”
The county is also required to revoke and rescind “all unreasonable access and flight restrictions and requirements that it placed on Timberview or other users without FAA approval.”
- Pending the FAA’s approval of a corrective action plan, the office will recommend withholding approval of any applications submitted by Okaloosa County for discretionary funding for projects.
Okaloosa County is currently reviewing the ruling and evaluating its options. However, the matter remains in active litigation, with pending litigation in state court. Further information will be released as legally permitted.