FAA tells Venice it must put airport first

June 5, 2008

Nine months after AOPA put the city of Venice, Fla., on notice for airport safety and operational issues, the FAA has gone on record with the same message.

In a May 30 letter to city officials, the FAA warned that the city cannot shorten the runways or restrict the size of aircraft using them at Venice Municipal Airport. The letter, which came in response to the city’s draft plan to modify the airport, notes numerous inconsistencies between federal requirements and the city’s proposal, including the size and location of runway protection zones, object free areas, and runway safety areas.

The letter also rejects the city’s contention that the airport is limited by a lease agreement with the city’s public golf course, which is located on airport property. The FAA’s letter points out that the golf course lease specifies that the needs of the airport come first, and the lease terms must comply with the airport’s obligations.

In August 2007, AOPA wrote to city officials, delivering essentially the same message. AOPA and Airport Support Network volunteer John Yurosko also have been working with local airport support groups, including the Venice Aviation Society and the Venice Aviation Business Association, as well as the Airport Advisory Board, to come up with solutions that will not compromise the field’s safety and utility.

The airport has been under fire, on and off, for years. Twice the FAA cut off federal funding because of problems at the airport. But in 2006, federal money was used to complete a major renovation of one of the airport’s runways—a move that was heralded as a turnaround by AOPA and the FAA.

By accepting the grant money, Venice agreed to keep the airport and operating for at least another 20 years, but the airport was already obligated for an even longer period. Because it sits on federal surplus property, it must remain an airport in perpetuity.