Pilot Sues SF Airport Over General Aviation

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The owner of the last small “piston airplane” based at San Francisco International Airport says airport managers are trying to force general aviation pilots to move to other airports, and illegally pulled his flight privileges as part of the plan.
     Airport director John Martin suspended Robert Reinheimer’s security access last year on allegations the Federal Aviation Administration later determined were unfounded, the pilot said Wednesday in his lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court.
     Reinheimer is a licensed pilot with commercial and instrument ratings, and since 1980 has parked his four-seat Cessna 182 in a general aviation area of the airport, a category which includes civilians flying planes not for scheduled air carriers.
     Reinheimer says that from the time of his first tie-down lease, the airport has “urged, encouraged and exerted various pressures on persons who parked their small piston single and twin engine aircraft at SFIA to move to other airports. For the past three years, plaintiff has been the only piston airplane tied down or home-based at SFIA.”
     In August 2015, his lease was current and his rent paid up when director Martin suspended his security access to the airport and his take-off and landing privileges Reinheimer says. Martin also told the flight service provider, which had the master lease for general aviation tie-downs, to cancel his lease, effectively evicting him.
     Martin’s notice cited two events in which Reinheimer’s plane allegedly taxied across hold bars without control tower clearance. But Reinheimer says he learned this year that the FAA had investigated the allegations and decided the events were unproven and that no enforcement action would be taken. Though his privileges had been suspended pending FAA review, he says, Martin never responded to his requests to have his privileges reinstated.
     Martin retired and was replaced in July by a new airport director, Ivar Satero, whose spokesman told Courthouse News that the airport cannot comment on pending litigation.
     Reinheimer says he has communicated to the airport “concerning the illegal, unauthorized and unjustified eviction of plaintiff from the airport.”
     He cites what he calls “the history of the airport’s pressuring all small piston aircraft to leave.”
     San Francisco International Airport is one of the busiest commercial hubs in the country. According to FAA statistics, of the roughly 430,000 take-offs and landings in 2015, only about 13,000 involved general aviation.
     Martin did not suspend his privileges “based on concerns for the safety of the airport, but based on unlawful discrimination against an entire class of aircraft which is prohibited by SFIA’s Grant Assurances with the FAA,” Reinheimer says.
     “Federally operated airport sponsors are required to operate airports for the use and benefit of aeronautical users and to make those airports available to all types, kinds, and classes of aeronautical activities on fair and reasonable terms, and without unjust discrimination,” he adds.
     In addition, he says, only the FAA has the authority to determine whether a pilot is unsafe.
     “An aeronautical operator holding an FAA certificate is presumed to be a safe operator,” so an airport cannot bar a certified pilot on the basis of the safety of its airport operations, Reinheimer says in the complaint.
     He is allowed to work on his Cessna 182 where it is tied down, but without access to the runways he will be forced to find another airport.
     He sued the City and County of San Francisco, which owns the airport, and its former director John Martin. He seeks full reinstatement of all rights and privileges and at least $100,000 in damages for denial of access to personal property, discrimination, emotional distress and interference with contract
     He is represented by Carol Healey with Bishop Barry in Emeryville, who did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

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