October 24, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA has requested that the FAA investigate the Omaha, Neb., Airport Authority’s management of the Millard Airport, where a history of restrictive practices “bring into question” the authority’s willingness to support the Omaha-area reliever airport.
In an Oct.10 letter to FAA compliance officials, AOPA asked for an informal probe of the airport’s authority’s policies, citing management’s continuing efforts to restrict businesses from operating turbine aircraft with maximum certificated gross weights of more than 12,500 pounds from Millard although the aircraft were operated at “weights that are significantly under” that limit.
AOPA’s complaint also criticized the authority’s decision to limit use of the runway to aircraft of 12,500 pounds despite the fact that the majority of the primary runway surface was constructed to support aircraft weighing 30,000 pounds. The authority imposed the restriction after rehabilitating a small portion of the runway to the lower weight standard, AOPA said.
“Essentially, the airport authority reduced the overall viability of the airport and runway environment, claiming the move was a safety-related action,” wrote Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy.
AOPA also urged a review of the airport management’s maintenance of the facility, noting that pavement condition deficiencies indicate that the airport authority has failed to meet its responsibilities under federal airport grant assurances. AOPA cited a 2012 state inspection report on runway and taxiway conditions in requesting that the FAA “determine if the authority is operating the facility in full compliance with federal grant obligations.”
The aircraft weight restrictions have been a source of controversy at Millard since the 1990s—and now are creating a financial hardship for businesses using the airport, and deterring others from pursuing business opportunities in the region, Dunn said.
The policy constitutes an access restriction that violates the airport’s grant assurances, he said.
“We believe that it is completely inappropriate to enforce a weight-based restriction when aircraft operators can certify to the authority that they are operating the aircraft at weights less than the limit,” he said.
AOPA also contended that the airport authority acted inappropriately when accepting federal funds and then using the runway rehabilitation project funded by the allocation to “intentionally reduce the utility of this important general aviation airport.”
AOPA’s request for an informal investigation was submitted to the FAA under Part 13.1 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which states that any person who knows of a violation of the Federal Aviation Act “should report it to appropriate personnel of any FAA regional or district office.”
Under the regulation, each report and other information about the issue “will be reviewed by FAA personnel to determine the nature and type of any additional investigation or enforcement action the FAA will take.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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