Commission will give Jet ICU shot at becoming airport FBO

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Commission will give Jet ICU shot at becoming airport FBO

August 09, 2017 - 10:12

Worldwide Aircraft Services, Inc. dba Jet ICU has been attempting to become a fixed based operator (FBO) at the Brooksville Tampa-Bay Regional Airport for approximately five years. Currently there is only one FBO at the airport, American Aviation. The county previously denied Jet ICU’s application to become a FBO in March 2015 due to an incomplete application.

That FBO application was dated July 14, 2014 and was formally rejected on March 17, 2015. On Sept. 17, 2014, the county advised Jet ICU that they cannot process the FBO application until they received several documents. Those documents included a more complete business plan, a court determination on authority to utilize the airport facility due to a leaseholder dispute, final order of FAA pending administrative action, final orders of 8 pending criminal cases in Pinellas County. It also called for a site plan depicting location of 100LL above ground fuel tank with a minimum capacity of 10,000 gallons to dispense 100 octane or greater fuel, according to Airport Minimum Operating Standards. This standard has not changed since the revision of Airport Minimum Operating Standards in 2015.

Additionally the county contended that the airport property leased by Jet ICU has insufficient ramp area as a FBO at the time was required to have 40,000 square feet or more of ramp space. The ramp space requirement for a FBO has since increased to 90,000 square feet in order to accommodate planes with a 79’ wingspan.

The final order of the FAA administrative action found a single violation relating to improper documentation of a mechanical discrepancy during a flight on May 3, 2009. An appeal of the decision was filed and then later withdrawn in July 2015. The county’s minimum operating standards states that the airport may deny an application if the applicant has a record of “...violating the Rules and Regulations of any other airport, Civil Air Regulations, Federal Aviation regulations…”

The September notice of deficiency letter also listed criminal cases in Pinellas County involving (defendant) Michael Honeycutt owner of Jet ICU.

• Case No. 1300A0LTO3P- Careless driving on 8/23/13 changed plea to guilty on 1/22/15; Related case: 13A0LTO3PANC

• Case No. 14006787XFH - DUI 316.193 MISDEMEANOR - 1ST arrest date 5/3/14 - pled guilty
Related case Case No. 146787XFHANC

• Case No. 14A15IDJPANC - DWLSR (Driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license) NCTC 052814 @ 1000 AM MISDEMEANOR - 2ND DEGREE 05/03/2014 - pled guilty

• Case No. 14A15IKXPANC - REF TO SUB TO TESTING NCTC 052814 @ 1000 AM - 3161939 MISDEMEANOR - 1ST DEGREE 05/03/2014- - pled guilty

According to Minimum Operating Standards, the Airport may deny an application if “the Applicant has committed a crime or violated a local ordinance, rule or regulation, which adversely reflects on its ability to conduct the FBO/SASO Operation applied for.”

Worldwide Aircraft leases a hangar at the airport (2561 Rescue Way) from BMF Land Development LLC. BMF holds the lease agreement with the county where the hangar was built. In order to become a FBO, BMF needed to agree to change their lease agreement with the county in order to allow for a FBO. At the time, Fred Judy II of BMF stated that the majority ownership does not wish to change its lease with the county. A dispute as to who owned the majority share of BMF ensued between Michael Honeycutt/Worldwide and Fred Judy II and Fred Judy, Sr. Hernando County then sought a declaratory judgement on who controls the activities of BMF, which was still pending as of Feb. 18, 2015 and then settled in March 2015. Honeycutt sent a letter to

County Administrator Leonard Sossamon on Feb. 5, 2015 stating that the majority ownership “as Managing Partner is now affirmed to be owned by myself, Michael Honeycutt.” He stated that BMF Land Development would like to move forward with amending the lease agreement to allow Jet ICU to become a FBO.

The county granted Jet ICU an opportunity to “present any concerns the company may have with regard to its ability to satisfy the FBO standards that are set forth in the Minimum Operating Standards Ordinance...” at the July 25, 2017 BOCC meeting.

Mike Honeycutt began with news that the company just signed a purchase agreement for their 5th Lear jet which should be here middle of next month. “We operate these Lear jets, medically equipped. They’re basically flying intensive care units. They fly all over the world and pick up American citizens that are injured or hurt and bring them home to the US to where we feel is the best healthcare in the world.”

Recently, Michael Honeycutt and Jet ICU received notoriety for picking up 22-year-old USF student Barbara Jimenez in Cuba after she was injured in a car wreck there. Honeycutt provided the transport back to the US for medical treatment at no charge.

“I founded the company in 2003. I started the company out of Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport.”

He explained that they quickly outgrew facilities there and by 2006 began a search for a new location. At the time he spoke to Don Silvernell, then airport manager at the Hernando County airport. He told Silvernell that they’d like to add a fuel farm because they wanted to be able to control their own fuel costs. “If we could buy from the port of Tampa directly, that would be a tremendous savings for us.” He also stated that having to rely on and coordinate with a separate FBO to deliver fuel can delay the aircraft, which delays care for patients. Don said “not a problem” for a fuel farm, stated Honeycutt. In Feb. 2007 they signed a land lease, with the intentions of becoming a FBO down the road. In 2010, they finished the hangar they are currently operating out of which is worth $1.8 million according to a recent appraisal. In 2012, Honeycutt decided to go forward with applying to be a FBO. They ended up withdrawing the application and refiled a year later.

The county informed Jet ICU the application was on hold and they can’t do anything about the application because there is litigation involved. “The litigation involved was an internal dispute between the three owners of the business at the time. The county filed a declaratory action with the idea of finding out who was in charge that they could deal with for purposes of the FBO,” explained Jet ICU attorney Michael Brannigan. That issue has been resolved as it was determined Honeycutt held majority ownership.
“We have followed protocol, we have followed procedure.” He stated that they would like a vote to see if they can be a FBO whether it’s based on the previous application or the current application.

“We have a fuel farm, we’ve had a fuel farm for 10 years. We can demonstrate our ability to pump fuel. We have the ability to manage aircraft. We manage five aircraft now. We have provided insurance paperwork, proving we are properly insured. We’ve continuously been thwarted. In 5 years this is the first time we’ve ever been allowed in front of the airport authority or the Board of County Commissioners,” said Brannigan.

Commissioner Champion stated in relation to the current minimum operating standards requiring 10 Acres, “Ten acres is ridiculous. It sounds like we’re trying to prop up someone else and keep others out. I do not like bullying around the airport. And that’s exactly what it is at the airport. We’re trying to keep others out.”

Brannigan stated that the 2015 standards “were frankly being created to keep us from being an FBO.” We were told that we would not be held to those standards, that we would be held to the 2004 standards. The ones we relied on when we built the $1.8 million improvement to the airport. That’s what our hangar is valued at right now.” He said they just got it appraised in order to amend their land lease.

He urged the commission to make a motion and vote on it in regards to designating them a FBO today. He said that they should be held to the 2004 standards not the 2015 standards.

Commissioner Nicholson stated, “Commissioner Champion doesn’t want the new standards. He doesn’t want to go beyond what’s required and I don’t either… ”

“I know that Mr. Brannigan wants a vote from you today, that I don’t think is possible legally,” said Attorney Garth Coller. What we’ve got to do, if we are going to go and ignore the current regulations, we’re going to have to go back and amend those regulations. It has to be done in a properly noticed hearing… The application will have to meet those standards, whatever you choose for them to be and then the board can hear that application. It sounds to me that this is a board that will be very receptive to that application…”

Brannigan and Honeycutt were both frustrated and concerned that they were once again getting a run around from the county.

Brannigan cited, “Airport management may waive or modify any portion of the minimum operating standards for any person when it is determined that such waiver or modification is in the best interest of the public users and the Board of County Commissioners... ”

“I’m standing here, been here 10 years, invested $1.8 million dollars into this county, give back to this county. All I’m trying to do is grow my business and I’ll I do is run into roadblocks. Why don’t you help me grow my business,” said Honeycutt.

County Attorney Garth Coller stated, “The problem here is that we have an application that has been rejected. It has been rejected by the proper standards. It went through the process and that rejection was not appealed.”

The board came to a consensus to put an ordinance on the agenda to “rollback” the minimum operating standards to the 2004 standards for the Aug. 8, 2017 meeting. Then during the Aug. 22 meeting, the BOCC will hear and decide on Jet ICU’s application to become a FBO.

“If you have any problems between now and then, you can speak to any of the commissioners and staff and we’ll work through this,” said Chairman Dukes.

The 2015 Minimum Operating Standards took two years to develop. The county adopted the standards unanimously on Feb. 9, 2016. Both Chairman Dukes and Commissioner Nicholson sat on that board.