County seeks authority for restrictions at Las Vegas airports

December 4, 2008

In a 6-0 vote Dec. 2, Nevada’s Clark County Commission passed a resolution declaring its intent to ask Congress for unique powers to restrict access to county airports, including North Las Vegas and five other airports. But AOPA is warning that letting local governments decide who can and can’t use an airport could undermine the national air transportation system.

“One of the big reasons the aviation system in this country is so effective is that the federal government makes the rules, so they are consistent across local jurisdictions,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airports. “It would be a mistake for the federal government to cede some of that authority to local governments.”

AOPA had written to commissioners, asking them to defer action on the resolution and offering to continue to work with the county and local pilots to improve safety at the airport, which has been the scene of recent high profile accidents.

The association also met with the Clark County Department of Aviation earlier this year to advise the panel that it does not have the authority to restrict access to North Las Vegas, which has accepted federal airport improvement grants and associated obligations to keep the airport open without discrimination. AOPA staff shared several recommendations on working collaboratively with the local pilot community and residents to help resolve concerns about airport safety. In addition, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has developed a special seminar on flying safely at urban airports, which will be presented on Jan. 14 in Las Vegas at the Texas Station Hotel and Casino.

The county plans to pursue federal legislation that would allow the county aviation department to control access to the airport.

As part of an effort to increase public understanding of general aviation, the Clark County Aviation Association, with the help of AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer Kathleen Snaper, is hosting an open house at North Las Vegas this Saturday. AOPA Regional Representative Stacy Howard will also be present.