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Supporters rally to the defense of Fort Wayne, Ind., airportSupporters rally to the defense of Fort Wayne, Ind., airport

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Momentum has shifted slightly in favor of Fort Wayne's Smith Field (SMD), thanks in large part to events like this week's rally by more than 100 supporters. AOPA Vice President of Airports Anne Esposito told the rally audience, "This is truly a community airport. One of the most refreshing things about the Smith Airfield ForEver (SAFE) group is that it's made up of both pilots and community members who live near the airport and want to see it saved."

Earlier this year, the Fort Wayne Airport Authority Board voted 4-1, with one member not voting, to close the airport on July 1, 2003. Since then, one board member has been replaced, and at a Monday afternoon board meeting, the board deadlocked, 3-3, on a measure to keep Smith Field open until 2004.

"While a deadlock is certainly not a win for us," said Ken Russell, the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for Smith Field, "it does keep the issue alive, and lets the three members who favor closure know their view is not universally supported."

Following Monday night's rally, SAFE kept the pressure on with a media event at Smith Field, with many local politicians taking part. AOPA's Esposito told reporters, "AOPA strongly opposes the closing of Smith Field and will fight with SAFE and its supporters to keep it open."

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