VACAVILLE—James Warren, a retired lieutenant colonel with the US Army Air Corps, faced racism as a Tuskegee airman. Now, more than 60 years later, the 86-year-old pilot claims the Nut Tree Airport is discriminating against him because he's black.
According to a lawsuit filed against Solano County and two airport managers, Warren and a flight instructor were in his plane last September when a manager confronted and threatened him if he didn't end a flight lesson immediately.
"No one has ever had to face that type of sanction," Warren told FOX40's Rowena Shaddox. "They called the [Solano County] Sheriff on my instructor."
A few days after the confrontation, Warren said another manager from the Nut Tree Airport sent him a letter ordering him to end all flights having to do with his own scholarship program, in which he flies aspiring pilots on his plane free of charge.
"They said I was running a flight of business, so I had to cease and desist," Warren said. "They said I'd have to pay $500 a month."
Solano County public communications officer Steve Pierce said he had no knowledge of Warren escalating his claim of racial confrontation to airport or county officials before the lawsuit was filed, but did say Warren's relationship with the airport was that of a business.
"It's a small airport," Pierce told FOX40 News by phone Tuesday morning. "For most people, there's not a distinction between a 'personal' and 'business' relationship."
According to Pierce, even if Warren wasn't seeking compensation for his lessons, Warren acting as a flight instructor engaged him in a business relationship with the airport, and that meant he was subject to the same fees that every other flight instructor would have to pay.
"There are certain guidelines that are consistent with FAA rules that we follow," Pierce said, including compensation for business use of an airport that is federally-funded.
Pierce, speaking on behalf of Solano County, could not comment on the pending litigation, adding that the County had yet to be served with a copy of the lawsuit.