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

Honorable Thomas P. White, Mayor
City of Vero Beach
P.O. Box 1389
Vero Beach, FL 32960

Dear Mayor White:

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.

We have learned that by direction of the city manager, there is an immediate restriction at the Vero Beach Municipal Airport (VRB) on touch-and-go operations. On Sundays and federal holidays, this operation is prohibited. Touch-and-go operations are permitted 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. It is our belief that through this restriction the city 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 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) aid since 1990, the city of Vero Beach is obligated and must adhere to certain assurances specified by the federal government in grant agreements that are a part of the city's contract with the federal government.

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.

As an airport sponsor, the implementation of any restriction must be justified and approved by the FAA. If such a restriction is a mitigation measure for aircraft noise, that justification must be done through participation in a 14 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 150 "Airport Noise Compatibility Planning." This study of airport noise is often federally funded and will identify and map noise levels as well as incorporate procedures designed for noise mitigation.

All efforts, including voluntary procedures and practices, should be fully exhausted before implementing mandatory restrictions. Only by identifying the extent of the noise problem and through a cooperative working relationship between the airport sponsor, local government, users of the airport, and adjacent communities can a successful noise program be implemented.

A touch and go is a safe 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. Additionally, the recent restriction will serve to "compress" these operations into a narrow window, which will effectively add significant congestion to airport operations.

Consequently, we urge you to repeal this restriction until such time justification of this restriction can be provided and the federal process followed completely. Implementation of a restriction should only be done in accordance with federal law and regulations. We encourage you to work with the Orlando Airport District Office in determining if this restriction or any future restriction is permissible with federal grant obligations.

If you have any questions, or if we may be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me at 301/695-2204.

Sincerely,

Keith W. Holt
Manager
Airport Policy

Cc: Vice Mayor Arthur R. Neuberger
Councilwoman Sandra L. Bowden
Councilman John R. Capra
Councilman Craig Fletcher
Airport Director Eric Menger
FAA Orlando Airport District Office

December 17, 2001

Topics: AOPA, Pilots, Financial

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