June 11, 2009
By Ian J. Twombly
After 14 years of legal wrangling, the FAA last week ordered Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), operator of Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys Airport, and others, to repay $1.9 million in funds diverted from airport use along with more than $1 million in interest payments.
AOPA and the Air Transport Association had filed a formal legal complaint against LAWA, a government agency that operates the airports for the city, saying the agency used funds generated from the airport for general city purposes, contrary to its federal grant assurances.
In the early 1990s the state of California took airport property on the south side of Los Angeles International for a freeway. In 1994 LAWA transferred money the state had given the airport to the city’s general fund. AOPA asserted that once an airport takes federal funds and is subject to grant assurances, it is required to use all airport-generated revenue for airport purposes. AOPA and ATA claimed LAWA violated this assurance, and the FAA finally agreed.
Because LAWA also owns Van Nuys Airport, one of the busiest GA airports in the country, as well as Ontario and Palmdale airports, AOPA has insisted that Van Nuys and other airports received the funding they deserve.
“AOPA wants to ensure that revenue generated on an airport is retained and used for aviation-related projects, not a city’s general fund,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “This ruling proves you can take on city hall and win.”
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