August 6, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
The city of Cincinnati, Ohio, has notified the FAA that it will close the Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport on Aug. 29.
The decision, communicated in a three-paragraph letter from City Manager Milton Dohoney to the FAA’s associate administrator for airports in Washington, D.C., would mark the end of a five-year effort by AOPA and the general aviation community to keep the airport—long a reliever airport for the city and a fixture on the general aviation landscape—in operation.
That goal seemed on track as recently as last year. But with the city no longer obligated by any contracts associated with federal airport grants to keep the airport operating, reports began to leak late in 2011 that the city had begun to work behind the scenes against assurances it made to the aviation community.
“The Cincinnati administration, led by Mayor Mark Mallory, has failed to honor previous commitments to AOPA and the aviation community that Blue Ash Airport would continue to operate as a general aviation airport,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy, who received personal assurances from city leaders about Blue Ash.
“With the expiration of all federal grant agreements, the FAA has no legal authority to force Cincinnati to keep the airport open,” he said.
AOPA reported in March 2011 that Dunn was assured of city officials’ commitment to a long-planned reconfiguration, and continued operation, of the airport. The restructuring, and partial relocation of facilities on the airport—to be funded by a federal grant—was to follow the sale of a parcel consisting of about half of the airport land to the city of Blue Ash, where the airport is situated. The city of Blue Ash had also set aside funds for its part of the project to assist in the airport’s reconfiguration.
Then, last December, local news reports said that Cincinnati had backtracked despite being cautioned by the FAA against any possible misallocation of funds raised from aviation sources.
Sources told AOPA that Cincinnati believes it has found a way to skirt that requirement “by cancelling the sales agreement with Blue Ash, returning all funds received from Blue Ash, closing the airport and then reselling the property to the city of Blue Ash,” Dunn said.
Efforts by local pilots, AOPA, and businesses to convince the City of Blue Ash to acquire the balance of the airport property and continue operating the airport were unsuccessful.
In July a Cincinnati-area business publication reported that the city had spent more than $200,000 on legal expenses associated with closing the airport and moving ahead with a bond issue to finance a downtown streetcar project.
Dohoney’s letter to FAA Associate Administrator Christa Fornarotto said that the city would work with the FAA to ensure that notices to airmen are issued “to assure the safe closure” of Cincinnati-Blue Ash.
“We’re simply out of options at this point with every rock having been turned over,” said Dunn.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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