February 19, 2004
Feb. 19, 2004 - The State of New Jersey this week signed a deal to buy South Jersey Regional Airport (VAY) in Lumberton. It's part of the state's innovative plan to maintain what it calls the core aviation requirements of the state.
"By purchasing development rights or outright buying airports, Gov. James McGreevey and the state division of aeronautics is taking concrete steps to ensure the state has adequate aviation infrastructure," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Preserving, protecting, and maintaining those airports is every bit as important as maintaining the state's roads and harbors."
The current owners of South Jersey Regional had been trying since the late 1980s to make the airport profitable. One of the owners told a local newspaper that while the $8.2-million purchase price won't cover all of the airport's losses, it does mean that they won't have to "fight the bureaucracy" of the local township and county. Most recently, public outcry forced cancellation of plans to extend the 3,900-foot runway to 5,500 feet.
South Jersey is the second airport that the state has bought outright. The aeronautics division has also engineered the purchase of development rights at two others, meaning that while the owners retain title to airport, they agree not to let the land be used for any purpose other than as an airport. The state is negotiating with several other private airport owners to buy development rights.
"It's a key part of what we call the core airport system in New Jersey," Ted Matthews, executive director of transportation services for New Jersey's Department of Transportation told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. "[These are] the airports we believe need to be in place to meet forecasted demand over the next 20 years."
"This is a significant and very symbolic step that sends a message nationwide, saying New Jersey values its aviation resources," said Boyer. "It shows other states a way that they can preserve and protect their airports as well.
"Preserving and protecting airports is at the very heart of AOPA's mission, and we stand ready to assist New Jersey or any other state in that effort."
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The Senate has joined the effort to expand the FAA's third-class medical exemption to more pilots and aircraft.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.