Airports and State Advocacy
Politics trumped safety, Ohio pilots group says
Huron County won’t request airport grants
Supporters of the Norwalk-Huron County Airport in northern Ohio said that county officials' refusal to seek $400,000 in federal airport aid ignores increasingly worsening hazards on the airport's approaches.
A pro-airport organization vowed to continue its efforts to preserve the airport despite years of pressure on officials to close the grant-obligated facility and sell the property to private interests.
“We have to continue to move forward,” said Dan LeClair, president of the Friends of Huron County Airport.
The Norwalk Reflector reported that the airport's governing authority still plans to submit new grant requests next year despite the Huron County commissioners declining Sept. 6 to sign a current-year grant application that would have funded tree cutting and other improvements. A package of public funds combined with private donations would have made the airport eligible for approximately $400,000 in grants, with the work to be carried out by local contractors.
The local matching funds included a $10,000 donation from Angela Phillips, president and CEO of Phillips Manufacturing, whose company employs about 100 people in its Ohio plants. The company uses a Beech Baron twin based at the airport on business trips, as AOPA reported Aug. 10.
AOPA communicated its disappointment to the Huron County Commission about the difficult and contentious path they have chosen
“It is unusual these days that a county would turn down an opportunity to leverage federal, state, and private funds at no cost to them to create local jobs and economic activity,” wrote John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy in a Sept. 6 letter.
Collins reminded the commissioners that it is “extremely rare” for the FAA to permit closing an airport--with the principal requirement being that the petitioner demonstrate how doing so would be beneficial to civil aviation.
“On the other side, you will have AOPA and the entire aviation community opposing your petition,” he wrote.
The commissioners' decision not to submit the grant application marks the latest development in a continuing faceoff between airport backers and the county officials, who in the past have openly mulled a possible sale of the airport.
In February, AOPA wrote to the commissioners, reminding the them of their obligations as airport sponsors under grant agreements, and urging them to study ways to strengthen the airport rather than close it.
This spring and summer, the airport was shut down for short periods on several occasions to accommodate traffic control during auto races at the neighboring Summit Motorsports track.
Without the grants, tree growth that would have been remedied by a project proposed for funding will pose an increasing hazard to aircraft on approach to Norwalk-Huron's 4,210-foot Runway 10/28, LeClair said.
“We're not rolling over by any means,” he added. “We knew this was going to be a long-time process.”
September 8, 2011