AOPA asks Washington to stop airport closures

June 12, 2008

The state of Washington has both the right and obligation to keep airports that have received state funding open and operating, AOPA told the head of the Washington State Department of Transportation in response to moves by two communities to close their local airports.

In a June 12 letter, AOPA urged the state to enforce provisions of its grant program that require airports receiving state money for improvements to remain open for the useful life of those improvements.

The letter was sent in response to efforts to close two airports, Blaine Municipal and Vista Field. Both are publicly owned, public-use fields that have received a combined $369,000 in state funding in recent years. But the owners of both airports have expressed interest in closing the fields and redeveloping the land for nonaviation purposes.

At Blaine Municipal, the city council has voted to close the airport at the end of 2008 and reached a tentative agreement to sell the land for about $6 million. At Vista Field, a consulting group has been hired to conduct an economic feasibility study of the airport. The results of that study are expected later this month. In the meantime, the state has asked the Port of Kennewick, which owns Vista Field, not to make any final decisions about the airport’s future until the state’s long-term air transportation study is completed in 2009.

AOPA and the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers at the two airports have been actively involved in promoting the airports and educating community leaders and politicians about their importance to the state’s transportation system and their local economies. AOPA has also been working with state transportation officials and the Washington Pilots Association to keep the airports open.