July 3, 2012
By Sarah Brown
An Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission proposal to remove four community airports from the state airport system plan would cut off state support for those airports and make them more vulnerable to closure efforts.
AOPA is urging pilots to comment on the plan, which would cut Westport, Tenkiller Lake Airpark, Lake Murray State Park, and Pawnee Municipal from the Oklahoma Airport System Plan, by July 10 so their comments can be considered before a July 12 meeting of the commission.
The airports in question would no longer be eligible to receive state funds from the commission, and the two that are currently eligible for federal funding would be cut off from that too. Federal grants help protect airports from closure because they come with assurances that the field stay open as an airport for 20 years. The Oklahoma Department of Tourism, a co-sponsor of Lake Murray, requested to close the airport in 2010 but was prevented because it had received federal funds.
According to a meeting agenda from the aeronautics commission, a review of the four airports’ functional classification considered safety, demand, facility geometric standards, sponsor commitment, service area coverage, and benefit to the state airport system. AOPA addressed these state’s concerns in a July 3 letter.
“As a general principal, and expected by our membership, AOPA cannot condone actions taken against general aviation airports that directly or indirectly result in their ultimate demise and closure,” wrote AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro. “Despite assurances from the OAC staff that the removal from the OASP will not mean closure for the airport, it sets them on a path that will likely result in their eventual closure.”
Pilots may submit comments to Airports Engineer Vivek Khanna via email or by mail: Vivek Khanna, PhD.,P.E., M.ASCE; Airports Engineer; Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission; 120 N Robinson Ave, Suite 1244 W; Oklahoma City, OK 73102.
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