KC settles lawsuit involving downtown airport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City has settled a lawsuit with an airplane maintenance company that accused the city of wrongly failing to disclose negotiations with a competitor who hoped to lease space at Wheeler Downtown Airport.

The city was sued by BBA U.S. Holdings, which bought Executive Beechcraft in 2007. Executive Beechcraft had long provided services for airplanes, such as fuel, mechanical work and hangars. The lawsuit filed in 2009 says that while the sale was pending, Kansas City officials failed to tell BBA that they were negotiating with James Stowers III to put in a competing terminal and aviation facility at Wheeler Downtown Airport.

The company said it wouldn’t have paid as much for Executive Beechcraft if it had known it wasn’t going to be the only executive terminal at the downtown airport.

Kansas City officials responded that the city wasn’t involved in BBA’s negotiations with Executive Beechcraft and it wasn’t their responsibility to tell the company about discussions with Stowers.

The City Council approved a settlement with BBA last week, avoiding what could have been an expensive trial that was scheduled to begin Jan. 7.

The city already had spent nearly $1 million in aviation funds on an outside law firm to defend itself in the lawsuit, and it won’t recoup that money. The settlement doesn’t require the city make any monetary payments, but it does reduce Executive Beechcraft’s rent at the downtown airport with rental credits totaling $2.5 million from 2013 through 2018.

“The city is happy to put this behind us,” assistant city attorney Dorothy Campbell told The Kansas City Star. “We’re partners with our fixed base operators (at Downtown Airport) and we look forward to working with BBA. It is a wonderful thing for both parties.”

BBA’s local counsel, Christopher Shank, said his client also was glad the case was settled amicably, but he declined to comment further.

Stowers, a civic leader who stepped down as chairman of American Century Investments in 2007, took on the terminal and hangar project as a private business enterprise. The venture received $3.5 million in Missouri tax credits and opened in October 2010 as a hangar for large corporate jets. It offers overnight rooms for pilots and amenities such as a health club.

Campbell said Executive Beechcraft and Stowers are both doing well at the downtown airport.

“They are both successful,” she said. “And competition is something the city certainly wants, and the FAA wants, at the airport.”

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