Lorain County closure would flout federal obligations

January 7, 2010

When an airport receives funding from the federal government, it agrees to certain terms. Chief among them: It must remain open to the public as an airport. Lorain County, Ohio, announced last month that it was abandoning that responsibility and closing Lorain County Regional Airport. The FAA’s response was a definitive “no.”

The county still plans to move forward with closing the airport Jan. 15, in violation of its grant obligations. AOPA expressed its opposition to the planned closure Jan. 5, reminding the county that a projected deficit does not release it from its obligations and that the value of an airport is broader than what can be measured on a balance sheet.

“Airports play an important role in providing economic development to the local area,” wrote AOPA Vice President of Local Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn. “According to a State of Ohio Economic Impact Report, … LPR accounts for 333 jobs and has an annual total economic impact of $37 million.” Beyond the measurable economic impact, airports provide access to the local area in the same way that highways do, Dunn added.

“The primary difference is that airports are an exit/entrance ramp to a national transportation system in the sky. Would the county consider limiting local access by closing an interstate highway ramp? Doubtful.”

The FAA has invested more than $9.2 million in Lorain County Regional Airport since 1983 because it considers the airport to play a critical role as a reliever airport that benefits aviation in the county, the greater Cleveland area, and northeastern Ohio. The FAA notified the county in December that it could not close the airport without the FAA’s consent and that the agency may pursue a court order to keep the airport operating.