AOPA goes to bat for Everglades airport

November 25, 2003

Mr. Tom Henning
Chairman, Collier County Commission
Collier County Government Center
3301 East Tamiami Trail
Naples, FL 34112

Dear Mr. Henning:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the world's largest aviation association with more than 400,000 members nationwide. It has been brought to our attention that discussions among Collier County planning staff and other county officials has surfaced that suggested closing one of the general aviation airports operated by the Collier County Airport Authority. AOPA and our 29,700 members in Florida would strongly oppose the closure of any general aviation airport in Collier County.

An airport's value is much more than a bottom line dollars-and-cents value. Airports are a transportation resource that provides aviation access to your community for businesses, personal transportation, emergency services and pleasure flying. Airports such as Marco Island, Everglades Airpark, and Immokalee also provide pilots with local alternatives to the busier and more congested Naples Municipal airport.

More importantly, however, is the federal investment and the subsequent assurance that requires the airports to remain open. According to information AOPA has received from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants have been accepted at Marco Island, Everglades Airpark, and Immokalee. These grants include a 2003 grant at Marco Island for construction of a taxiway, a 2003 grant at Immokalee for construction of a taxiway and a 2003 grant at Everglades to extend a taxiway.

In order to preserve and protect the taxpayer's interest as well as the interest of maintaining a nationwide system of airports, as a condition of receiving those grants, the FAA requires that the airport remain open and available for public use for the life of that grant (typically 20 years).

Preserving our nation's system of airports is a priority for AOPA; therefore, we would strongly oppose closing any of these airports in Collier County. We hope you will recognize the importance of these airports and continue to develop them to meet the community's aeronautical needs. I am enclosing a copy of our video, Local Airports Access to America. I hope you and the other commissioners will take time to view the video that will highlight the importance of a community airport. In addition, I would encourage you and your community members to visit the Web site of www.GAServingAmerica.org to learn more about the benefits of general aviation.

Feel free to contact me at 301/695-2204 if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,

Keith Holt
Manager
State Affairs

Cc: Councilman Jim Coletta
Councilman Fred W. Coyle
Councilwoman Donna Fiala
Councilman Frank Hales
Mayor Sammy Hamilton, Everglades City
FAA Orlando Airport District Office

November 25, 2003