Gary airport, fixed-base operator feud in court over contract with competitor
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULZ email@example.com January 31, 2014 3:16PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:28PM
A legal dispute between Gary/Chicago International Airport and the Gary Jet Center continues to grow over allegations that the airport is giving a competitor unfair advantages.
In documents filed Friday in federal court, the airport said the Jet Center really just wants to end any competition.
That allegation was in a response filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond to the Jet Center’s earlier motion for an injunction.
“While downplayed in the pleadings, it is transparent ... that the root of plaintiff’s claim is that it abhors competition …,” the filing says.
The Jet Center sued the airport in December, claiming a contract airport officials reached with East Lake Management to open up B. Coleman Aviation at the airport allowed the company to skirt several federal regulations the Jet Center must follow.
The Jet Center and B. Coleman are fixed-based operators, meaning they essentially act as service stations for the airplanes at the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires fixed-base operators to follow certain rules. The Jet Center claimed that the airport allowed B. Coleman out of some of these rules, like not collecting certain fees and operating out of double-wide trailers when a 10,000-square foot building is required.
By requiring the Jet Center to follow these rules, the airport gave B. Coleman an unfair advantage, the company claimed in its lawsuit.
The airport says in its response that the Jet Center misinterpreted some of the regulations, such as the one requiring a 10,000-square-foot building. The airport says the rules say such a facility need be only under construction, which B. Coleman has done.
The airport also states that the Jet Center also has been allowed to skirt some of the regulations. The airport denies allowing B. Coleman to skirt any rules, but, it argues, even if it had, all it would mean is that the airport were treating both firms the same.
“To say that plaintiff was treated arbitrarily worse ... is simply disingenuous,” the airport’s response says.
The response goes on to say that the Jet Center does not have the right to sue over the FAA regulations because enforcing violations of those rules is the job of the FAA. The Jet Center also has the option to end its lease with the airport, the filing says.
“Plaintiff’s attempt to stifle competition is unconvincing, and this court should allow the public interest of competition and expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport to progress even if, in effect, plaintiff’s unfettered 23-year reign … at the airport concludes,” the response says.
The Jet Center has asked for a hearing on its motion for an injunction. U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen has not ruled on that request.