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AOPA raises red flag over renewed talk of closing Cleveland's Burke LakefrontAOPA raises red flag over renewed talk of closing Cleveland's Burke Lakefront

Honorable Jane L. Campbell
Mayor
City of Cleveland
601 Lakeside Ave.
Room 2002
Cleveland, OH 44114

Dear Mayor Campbell:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) represents the general aviation interests of over 380,000 members nationwide. More than 13,000 members call Ohio home, with nearly 60,000 located in the states surrounding Ohio. Many of our members, both in the state and across the country, have utilized the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, to conduct both personal and business flights using general aviation aircraft.

I am writing to express our serious concern about recently published reports in The Plain Dealer (May 1, 2002—"Airport's departure lands on wish list" by Christopher Quinn) indicating a belief by some, reportedly including City Councilman Joe Cimperman, that Burke Lakefront Airport should be closed and the property used for purposes other than aviation. AOPA is strongly opposed to such action.

Since 1993, the city of Cleveland has willingly accepted $3.556 million of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to improve and make the airport a desirable access point to the city. Acceptance of these federal funds comes with certain obligations to the federal government, including a requirement to continue to operate the airport as an airport for a specific period of time—20 years. These agreements are a contract with the federal government and must be honored; simply paying the funds back is not an option.

With the recent focus on the need for additional airport and runway capacity, as a designated FAA reliever airport, closing Burke could have a tremendous detrimental impact on delays at Hopkins Airport. We doubt the FAA will be willing to accept the negative consequences associated with allowing Burke Lakefront to close.

The benefit of a local airport cannot necessarily be determined by looking at a balance sheet for the airport. The airport has a far-reaching impact on the surrounding community.

A study commissioned for the Ohio Department of Transportation Division of Aviation found that the airport's economic impact is more than $61 million per year.

Burke Lakefront is an economic engine for the city. Each year, the Cleveland Grand Prix and Labor Day airshow bring thousands of visitors to the city. These visitors have a tremendous impact on the local economy. The airport also plays a vital role in emergency medical care through operation of MetroLife flights from the facility. When time is critical, Burke is the airport of choice.

The previous mayor, Michael R. White, and the majority of members of the city council obviously had a forward-looking vision for the airport. They understood the value of the airport and what it means to the community. That's why they have proposed a $55 million airport development project to be funded with FAA AIP funds. This is made possible by the $3.2 billion available through the federal program to develop airports such as Burke Lakefront.

According to the report in The Plain Dealer, Growth Association President Dennis Eckart is quoted as saying that "Burke airport gets in the way." Additionally, Councilman Cimperman is quoted as saying, "It means Burke is going to be a park." Given the positive impact Burke bestows on the Cleveland economy and the city's contractual obligations with the federal government, it is unreasonable to believe that any effort to close the airport and convert the property to additional parks will be extremely costly to taxpayers and other city residents. Comments about the airport's imminent closure are seriously flawed and raise serious questions about commitment to linking Cleveland through a viable air transportation network.

We urge you to consider the possibilities of developing compatible property uses in areas surrounding the airport. Airports are gems for economic development and growth. We hope you will explore fully the opportunities your airport provides for long-term growth and benefit to your city.

The association is committed to defeat any attempts to close this valuable community resource. At the same time, we stand ready to assist you in creating a bright future for Burke Lakefront airport and your fine city.

We appreciate your consideration of our views and urge you to reject the closure of Burke Lakefront Airport and instead support this vibrant resource for the city.

Sincerely,

Bill Dunn
Vice President
Regional Affairs

cc: Members of the Cleveland City Council
Dennis Eckart, President, Greater Cleveland Growth Association

May 3, 2002

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