May 17, 2006
At first glance, there are some striking similarities between Blue Ash Airport outside Cincinnati and Chicago's Meigs Field - mayors who are in the position to close the airport, cities that don't actually own the airport, and no federal grant assurances to block closure.
But there are huge differences, particularly between Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and Chicago boss Richard M. Daley - differences that mean Blue Ash is much less likely to suffer Meigs' fate.
AOPA President Phil Boyer and Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn flew to Cincinnati this week to discuss Blue Ash Airport with Mayor Mallory.
"Mayor Mallory won't pull a Daley and destroy the airport in the dead of night," said Boyer. "He understands the importance of general aviation airports, and he promised that AOPA and local pilots will be part of the discussion on the future of the airport."
So why is there any discussion at all?
Blue Ash Airport (ISZ) is owned and operated by the city of Cincinnati, but the airport is within the Blue Ash city limits. (Meigs was operated by the city of Chicago, but the land was owned by the Chicago Parks Department, a legally independent agency.)
Blue Ash would like to own the airport, but the small city hasn't been successful in negotiating a price to buy it.
Cincinnati is committed to general aviation airports - it owns Cincinnati Municipal-Lunken Field (LUK) - but isn't sure it needs to operate two, particularly one that is outside its city limits.
"We explained to Mayor Mallory that Lunken Field is well suited to the needs of corporate aviation, and that Blue Ash provides better service to personal aviation," said Boyer. "They work together as part of a regional transportation system."
Like Chicago, Cincinnati has stopped accepting federal grants for Blue Ash Airport. The last of the grant assurances expired nearly two years ago. Without grants in force, an airport owner is free to do what it wants with the property. Airport property essentially becomes the "private property" of the local government.
Federal grant assurances, while not the only way to keep an airport open, are a critical component of AOPA's efforts to preserve airports. [ See the June 2006 "President's Position."]
But unlike Chicago, nobody is chomping at the bit to make Blue Ash a "park."
"Blue Ash officials told us this week that they want an airport in their city, and they'll do whatever they can to keep it open," said Boyer. "Cincinnati wants to do what makes fiscal sense for the city, but they also appreciate the value of the airport."
While Boyer pledged to work with the mayor as he explores the city's options, he also indicated that AOPA would do whatever it could to ensure Blue Ash Airport continues to serve the needs of general aviation operators.
"Unlike Chicago, where Mayor Daley refused to even talk to us, here we're dealing with reasonable, enlightened elected officials, who will continue to explore ways to best serve general aviation in the region," said Boyer.
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