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AOPA tells Puerto Rico to keep San Juan reliever airport openAOPA tells Puerto Rico to keep San Juan reliever airport open

<BR><SPAN class=twodeck>Sends 'Pilot Action Alert' to area pilots</SPAN><BR><SPAN class=twodeck>Sends 'Pilot Action Alert' to area pilots</SPAN>

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is urging the commonwealth of Puerto Rico to keep San Juan's Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport (SIG) open. AOPA said a consultant's study encourages continued operation of the field, still commonly called by its old name Isla Grande, but government discussions to close the airport continue.

"AOPA strongly opposes any effort to close the airport," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president for regional affairs, in a recent letter to Governor Sila Maria Calderon. "No other airport will be able to accommodate Isla Grande's 300 based aircraft and more than 120,000 annual operations."

AOPA concurrently mailed a "Pilot Action Alert" to all members in Puerto Rico, urging them to contact the governor, the director of the airport authority, and key legislators to voice support for the airport.

"Closing Isla Grande Airport will put a substantial strain on the Puerto Rico air transportation system, and the cost for construction of a new airport elsewhere would far exceed costs of maintaining the existing facility," Dunn told the governor.

The metropolitan San Juan economy relies on the airport and will need it even more in the future, Dunn said. "It is estimated that relocating airport operations would have a $60 to $85 million impact and eliminate approximately 500 jobs. The close proximity of the (new) convention center to the airport will make it the airport of choice of many corporations and business travelers."

He said airports such as Luis Munoz Marin International (SJU), Humacao Regional (X63), Diego Jimenez Torres Regional (X95), Patillas (X34), and Antonio/Nery/Juarbe Pol Regional (ABO) would be "unable to fill the void that will be created if Isla Grande Airport is lost."

The airport's 5,317-foot runway can safely handle the types of aircraft using the field, and there is room for more taxiways and ramp space, Dunn said in the letter.

The 380,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than half of the 635,000 pilots in the United States are AOPA members, and they own or fly most of the 206,000 non-military and non-airline aircraft in the United States.

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