AOPA wins major victory in supporting GA airports

December 16, 2005

AOPA wins major victory in supporting GA airports
FAA slaps hands of Pompano Beach, Florida

Pompano Beach

The City of Pompano Beach must stop its efforts to unfairly restrict general aviation use of Pompano Airpark (PMP), the FAA has decreed. Acting on a formal complaint filed by AOPA and its local members, the FAA has determined that city regulations prohibiting touch and goes, stop and goes, intersection takeoffs, and other restrictions, have violated federal obligations to make the airport available to the public on reasonable terms without unjust discrimination.

"This should send a clear message to airport sponsors everywhere. Treat every user fairly, and don't try to stop legal operations with illegal regulations," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports.

The FAA issued the 53-page "Directors Determination" faulting Pompano Beach on December 15.

The city had tried to limit—perhaps even shut down—flight training operations with the regulations. And they were attempting to circumvent federal regulations to control noise, even though the city had never validated a real noise problem.

Since 1995, the city had prohibited stop and goes at the airport, restricted when touch and goes could be performed, and added other restrictions to limit flight training. AOPA had warned the city that its regulations would run afoul of federal law. Even the city's outside counsel, Kaplan, Kirsch & Rockwell, a law firm that often represents city governments in airport disputes, had suggested to the city that if they pursued the new restrictions, the action could expose the city to "certain" legal risks.

In 2003, the city council added even more restrictions, and in essence, challenged the FAA to do something about it.

AOPA filed a formal "Part 16" complaint in January 2004, and with that, the FAA moved against the city, basing its decision upon the obligations imposed upon the city by the Surplus Property Act.

The federal government deeded what became Pompano Airpark to the city as war surplus following World War II. Part of the deal was that the city must use the land as an airport without undue restrictions or unjust discrimination, or the federal government could take back the land.

The city has pushed the limits of that agreement pretty far. Through the years, it has taken 444 acres of what was supposed to be airport land exclusively, and converted it to other uses, including a golf course and waste treatment plant.

In 1992, the city and FAA reached an agreement on how the airport should be compensated for that, and what airport land revenues could be used for non-aviation purposes.

But now, the FAA has determined that the city is "in noncompliance" with most of its agreements with the federal government.

The agency ordered Pompano Beach to stop enforcing its restrictions on stop and goes, touch and goes, and other normal aircraft operations. It ordered the city to submit a corrective action plan.

If the city fails to comply, the FAA warned that it might declare the city in default. That could cost the city millions of dollars that it now draws from the airport and deposits in the general fund.

And if the FAA finds the city in default, the federal government could also take back all of the land it gave to the city in 1947.

December 16, 2005