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AOPA asks FAA to step in to prevent the closure of Southern California's Hawthorne airportAOPA asks FAA to step in to prevent the closure of Southern California's Hawthorne airport

The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to take strong action to prevent the closure of Hawthorne Municipal Airport, a key reliever airport east of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

In a June 29 letter to FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Woodie Woodward, AOPA wrote, "There are no viable arguments that would justify the city's attempt to close this valuable airport.... Any attempt to allow the sponsor to pay back federal funds and close the airport will be detrimental to the national air transportation system." AOPA added that closing Hawthorne would affect capacity at LAX and other regional airports.

A Los Angeles-based development company, Paladin Partners LLC, has presented a plan to city officials to close the 53-year-old municipal airport and build yet another retail shopping complex.

But city officials have accepted more than $3 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for Hawthorne airport. Those grants obligate the city to keep the airport open until at least 2011.

In addition, the federal government deeded some 20 acres of the airport property to the city, again with the proviso that the land be used for an airport. If the city closes the airport, by law that land reverts back to the federal government.

"Our members are looking to you and the FAA for leadership to ensure federal airport obligations are upheld and this vital airport is protected," AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Bill Dunn wrote FAA's Woodward.

Dunn said that Hawthorne airport was a "valuable transportation asset that is impossible to replace in the Los Angeles Basin." The airport boasts more than 85,000 takeoffs and landings per year and is home to some 165 aircraft. As an FAA-designated reliever airport, Hawthorne helps reduce congestion problems at LAX.

AOPA urged the FAA to "become proactively involved in this issue and to support the continued operation of Hawthorne Municipal Airport."

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 58 percent of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are some 48,000 California pilots.

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