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AOPA challenges touch-and-go restrictions at two Florida airportsAOPA challenges touch-and-go restrictions at two Florida airports

Commissioner John D. Bruhn
St. Lucie Board of County Commissioners
2300 Virginia Ave.
Fort Pierce, FL 34982

Dear Commissioner Bruhn:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a nonprofit membership association consisting of over 370,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide, 27,700 of whom reside in the state of Florida. AOPA is committed to ensuring the continued viability, growth, and development of aviation and airports in Florida and the United States.

It has recently been brought to AOPA's attention that the St. Lucie Board of County Commissioners has recently passed a policy to impose restriction on flight training activities at the St. Lucie County International Airport (FPR). It is our belief through this restriction the county is attempting to regulate aircraft operations that are within the exclusive province of the federal government.

As the sponsor of an airport that has accepted over $9.4 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) aid since 1990, St. Lucie County must adhere to certain assurances specified by the federal government in grant agreements.

Grant Assurance #22 Economic Nondiscrimination states in part:

  1. It will make its airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination, to any person, firm, or corporation to conduct or to engage in any aeronautical activity for furnishing services to the public at the airport.
  1. The sponsor may establish such reasonable, and not unjustly discriminatory, conditions to be met by all users of the airport as may be necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the airport.
  1. The sponsor may prohibit or limit any given type, kind or class of aeronautical use of the airport if such action is necessary for the safe operation of the airport or necessary to serve the civil aviation needs of the public.

St. Lucie County International Airport has a noise compatibility plan (NCP) approved by the FAA under 14 CFR Part 150 "Airport Noise Compatibility Planning." A notice of approval for the NCP was published in the Federal Register on August 31, 1994, approving six elements of the noise compatibility program.

In regards to the most recent restrictions at the airport, the association would like pose the following questions:

  1. Was the reduction of aircraft noise the basis of the recent restrictions on touch-and-go operations at the airport? If not, what was the reasoning?
  2. What are all factors, studies, and information used by the airport and county commissioners to justify this restriction and quantify the results of implementing these airport access restrictions?
  3. Does this restriction apply to only flight training operations or all touch-and-go operations?
  4. Was this restriction implemented as part of the airport's noise compatibility plan? If so, what is the date of FAA approval of that plan?
  5. What steps has the county taken to implement the elements previously approved in the noise compatibility plan?
  6. How will this restriction impact the noise exposure map or noise footprint of the airport?

General aviation pilots and the entire aviation community willingly take voluntary and proactive steps to fly friendly and reduce airport noise whenever it is possible. AOPA has long been an advocate of "flying friendly" in order to reduce the impact of our members' aircraft operations on the local community. However, a touch and go is a necessary and legal flight operation. In the training environment a touch and go reduces taxi time and allows an instructor to concentrate more instructional time on the most complicated phase of a flight, the takeoff and landing phase. This restriction will add additional flight time to accomplish the same tasks, creating an additional unnecessary financial burden for aircraft rental and aircraft operating cost on the pilot. It will also increase airport congestion.

Consequently, we urge you to repeal this restriction until such time these concerns can be addressed. We request that this measure be fully examined to determine its true impact on noise contours, airport safety, and air traffic control tower procedures. Implementation of a restriction should only be done in accordance with existing federal law and regulations. We strongly encourage you to work with the Orlando Airport District Office in determining if this restriction is permissible with federal grant obligations. Additionally, we believe that all mitigation measures already approved by the FAA in the 1994 NCP should be implemented prior to moving on to mandatory access restrictions at St. Lucie County International Airport.

We respectfully request a response to our inquiry within 30 days. If you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance, feel free to contact me at 301/695-2204.

Sincerely,

Keith W. Holt
Manager
Airport Policy

Cc: Commissioner Doug Coward
Commissioner Paula A. Lewis
Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson
Commissioner Cliff Barnes
St. Lucie County International Airport Manager
FAA Orlando Airport District Office

December 17, 2001

Topics: AOPA, Pilots, ATC

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