December 15, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
News reports that the city of Cincinnati may abandon its support of Blue Ash Airport—and possibly defy FAA warnings about use of funds from a sale—are meeting a strong response from AOPA and local pilots.
“This is just wrong. Cincinnati made commitments, and now they’re backpedaling,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy. “The aviation community is going to fight this.”
Dunn, in a Dec. 15 letter to Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, noted continuing news reports suggesting that the city “is seriously considering closing” the airport on the northeast side of the Cincinnati area. The airport is located beneath a Class B airspace segment with a floor of 5,000 feet msl and a ceiling of 10,000 feet.
One report by an area television outlet attributed to City Manager Milton Dohoney comments to the effect that the decision about the airport turned on low revenue production.
Dunn’s letter, as well as pilots interviewed by local news media, countered that claim, citing a 2006 economic impact report crediting the airport with contributing $6.9 million annually to the area’s economy. Additionally, the city of Blue Ash has set aside $2 million to assist with funding the airport’s reconfiguration. Cincinnati has also refused to accept nearly $500,000 of FAA Non-Primary Airport Entitlement funds allocated to Blue Ash Airport.
Pilot Bill Christian, who flies charters all across the country from his business, Blue Ash Aviation, cited the airport’s business-friendly access as a difficult-to-replace asset for the area.
“That airport is so well geographically located, it’s the best airport location of any I’ve ever been to,” he said in a phone interview during a ground stop on a charter he was flying. “It’s going to be sad if it closes.”
The city would face the additional hurdle of FAA scrutiny of how it used proceeds of any sale: a Dec. 13, 2010, FAA letter to Mallory summarized legal restrictions on the use of airport-related funds. “The city of Cincinnati is bound by an enduring obligation to keep all airport revenue within its airport system,” said the letter from the manager of the Detroit Airports District Office.
If Cincinnati officials moved to close or sell Blue Ash Airport, it would run counter to the upbeat approach officials were taking just last spring to revitalizing the airport.
In March, AOPA reported on Dunn’s meeting with airport manager Fred Anderton, who assured him that Cincinnati’s city administration was fully committed to the reconfiguration, and keeping the airport open as a general aviation airport. Officials of Cincinnati and the city of Blue Ash had met to discuss project options and timelines for the airport, which is physically located in the city of Blue Ash. Dunn also met at that time with Blue Ash City Manager David Waltz, who restated his city’s strong desire to see the nontowered airport with its 3,499-foot runway remain open as a GA airport.
The reconfiguration project was expected to take nine to 12 months after FAA grant approval. It includes a 130-acre park featuring a performing arts and conference center on the grounds.
AOPA “will take any and all action we deem necessary to protect this important general aviation airport,” Dunn said in his letter to Cincinnati’s mayor. “It’s unfortunate that Cincinnati apparently doesn’t see the overall transportation and economic impact value of Blue Ash Airport,” said Dunn.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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