Ending Months Of Drama, Alex Kelly Leaves North Adams Airport

Nov 21, 2018

Controversial businessman Alex Kelly has withdrawn his skydiving company from the public airport in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Almost a year ago, Alex Kelly bought the assets of a now-shuttered flight business operating out of the Harriman-And-West Airport, a public facility located on Route 2 just west of North Adams. It began a months-long conflict between Kelly, the city, and some fellow pilots and business owners as he attempted to install his skydiving business at the airport.

Kelly first reached out to airport officials in 2016 about expanding his Green Mountain Skydiving business from the Bennington Airport in Vermont as Berkshire Skydiving in North Adams. But at this week’s airport commission meeting, the city officially announced an end to the saga.

“As of last week, Mr. Kelly has withdrawn from his lease of the airport classroom space and has withdrawn from operation at the airport," said North Adams Administrative Officer Michael Canales. In an email dated November 12th, Kelly – who had in the past berated the city and its airport commission in lengthy missives – used just two sentences to say he was “giving up the office at the North Adams Airport.” In regard to the space in the Shamrock Hangar, Canales told the commission there was “no apparent damages or anything over there." He said the city would be "going through everything thoroughly," noting that "this just happened last week.”

Kelly is a sex offender once known as “the preppy rapist.”

He raped two teenagers in four days in 1986 and fled to Europe before his trial the next year. A 2017 television program alleges four other teens accused him of rape following his escape. In 1995, he was extradited back to the states and served a decade in prison for his crimes beginning in 1997. Following his parole, Kelly left a Connecticut flight company he joined in 2008 under a cloud. Eventually, he ended up in Vermont, and then in North Adams after construction at the Bennington Airport forced him to find an alternate location for his skydiving business.

Kelly’s history led to outcry in the North Adams community. He was also at odds with the city over his right to operate his business almost immediately upon moving into the space. Months of delays in establishing a lease led to tense airport commission meetings and complaints from Kelly. In June, at a dramatic meeting which ended in shouting in North Adams city hall, the city – finding no legal means to reject his application – granted Kelly a lease. But it came with strict limitations including a liberal termination clause.

In October, WAMC first reported that Kelly had had his lease with the state of Vermont to operate out of the Bennington Airport terminated for multiple concerns around misconduct and safety violations in late September. That’s according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

North Adams confirmed this week that it had subsequently begun an investigation of Kelly’s behaviors at its airport, but given his abrupt withdrawal, it remains unfinished.

“I think it’s been a trying and difficult time for many, and it’s put us in the public eye in ways we wouldn’t have chosen," said Sue Mead. She’s the head of the Greylock Flying Club, a group of local pilots who use the North Adams Airport and presented a competing application to use the space that the city ultimately awarded to Kelly. Mead was an outspoken member of the local contingent of flyers who opposed Kelly’s presence at the airport.

“However, it’s brought us closer over time to the mayor and Mike Canales, city administrator, and the airport commission,” Mead told WAMC.

She says the club is now looking at new lease opportunities at the airport.

For his part, Kelly did not respond to request for comment on this story, and the phone number for Green Mountain and Berkshire Skydiving is no longer in service. The last posts on the businesses’ respective Facebook pages are dated October 15th, and do not mention that both businesses are effectively inoperative.