Cincinnati reneges on commitment to reconfigure reliever

March 13, 2012

The city of Cincinnati, which for years has choked off federal aid to its reliever airport in nearby Blue Ash, has notified the FAA of its intention to close the facility later this year.

“AOPA is extremely disappointed with the city of Cincinnati’s withdrawal of support for this important general aviation airport and its economic contributions to the communities it serves,” said Bill Dunn, vice president of airport advocacy. “Their willful neglect of the airport through refusal of federal support made a major contribution to its declining financial viability.” The association has worked closely with its local Airport Support Network volunteer and elected officials to preserve the airport.

Shuttering Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport would occur no earlier than June 8, wrote City Manager Milton Dohoney in a March 9 letter to the FAA that characterized the airport as an economic underperformer.
“The City of Cincinnati intends to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to implement all necessary procedures to ensure that the Airport is properly closed, and that users and tenants of the airport are notified well in advance of closure. There are five other general aviation airports within 30 miles of Blue Ash, including Lunken Airport. These five airports have sufficient capacity to accommodate any additional operations from the closing of the Blue Ash Airport,” he wrote.

The FAA, in a brief statement, said it was reviewing the letter.

To free itself of obligations under contracts as an airport sponsor, the city in recent years turned down approximately a half-million dollars in federal aid available to the airport in nonprimary airport entitlement money.

Once the grants expired, the FAA no longer had a say in the decision to close the airport, said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy. The FAA has cautioned the city against using proceeds from any sale for nonaviation purposes, however, and some members of the city council continued to support the airport’s continued operation.

Also, with the city of Blue Ash holding first right of refusal on any sale of the airport property—and still appearing receptive to proposals to preserve the airport—local airport advocates were responding to the city’s “opening the door,” and planned to make a presentation to municipal officials, Dunn said.

Additionally, AOPA intends to vigorously pursue diversion-of-revenue allegations against Cincinnati with the FAA in what would be a clear violation of federal laws on the use of airport-generated revenue, said Dunn.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.