AOPA defends MO airport from misuse, possible closure

March 9, 2009

St. Clair Regional AirportThe city of St. Clair, Mo., should stop wasting resources looking into closing its airport and take better care of airport property, AOPA said in a March 4 letter to city officials.

Closing St. Clair Regional Airport would violate the city’s contract with the FAA, wrote AOPA Vice President of Local Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn in a letter to St. Clair Mayor Ron Blum. In addition, the city has neglected airport facilities, and a city-operated pumping station on airport grounds may be illegally diverting airport revenue, Dunn wrote.

City administrators have been looking into closing the airport and have issued a memorandum requesting a legal opinion on its closure. However, in accepting federal funds for the airport, the city had agreed to operate it as an airport through 2026. Dunn met with officials from the State of Missouri Aviation Division and the FAA in late February, and both agencies have noted they oppose the closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.

During his visit to Missouri, Dunn visited the airport and found it in poor condition.

“I was shocked to see first hand the apparent neglect and lack of maintenance of the airport infrastructure,” he wrote. “Although the financial statements indicate maintenance of airport facilities, we question those numbers based on what I observed during my visit to the airport.”

AOPA has requested financial data about the airport and has found no evidence that a city-owned and -operated pumping station on the premises is making any rental payments to the airport fund. Federal law requires that all revenue generated on airport property—including land used for non-aeronautical purposes—must be credited to the airport accounts and used for airport purposes.

By neglecting and trying to close what was once “a thriving hub of business activity and revenue generation,” the city squanders an opportunity to use the airport to benefit the local community, Dunn wrote. “With proper marketing, the airport could and should play an important and integral role in expanding business and tax revenue for the city.”