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Army's oldest flying club sues to stay at Tipton Counties' takeover lifts military rules, group says


The oldest flying club in the Army has sued the Army to be allowed to stay at Tipton Airfield on Fort Meade after Howard and Anne Arundel counties take over.

The Fort Meade Flying Activity filed the class-action suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, arguing that after the property no longer belongs to the Army, the service has no authority to bar the club from the field.

The 366-acre airfield, in Anne Arundel County near the southeastern portion of Howard County, shuts down today as part of a federal base closure effort to cut defense spending. It will remain closed for at least six months for environmental cleanup. It will reopen as a civilian airport operated and eventually owned by Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

The club, which has been operating at the Odenton base since 1956, sued on behalf of its 260 members and the 160 members of the Naval Air Systems Command Flying Club, which also is located at Fort Meade.

Army lawyers have ruled that the flying clubs are military activities and under the base closure law, no military activities can remain on property that has been divested, Army spokesman Capt. Joseph Piek said yesterday.

Members of the flying club contend in their suit that they do not receive military funding. The clubs are self-sustaining, generating funds from membership dues and airplane rentals. Last year, the clubs made a $38,000 profit and donated it all to community programs at Fort Meade, according to the suit. Over the years, the clubs have invested more than $100,000 in improvements at Tipton.

If the court rules against the clubs, members are asking that the federal government reimburse members for improvements they made, the cost of moving to another airport and legal fees.

The clubs teach flying to military members, their dependants and federal employees who could not normally afford flying lessons. During the cleanup of Tipton, the club has moved its 18 small planes to Lee Airport in Edgewater.

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