Yesterday, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told an AOPA Expo audience in Palm Springs that the agency was serious about preserving airports. The agency is putting the promise in force against the state of Hawaii. The FAA's Western-Pacific Region Airports District Office has advised Governor Cayetano of Hawaii that "the FAA is greatly concerned over the outcome of any evaluation that would recommend closure of the subject airports."
"The FAA is sending a strong and clear message," said AOPA Vice President for Airports Anne Esposito, "the FAA is going to protect the taxpayers' investments and preserve our nation's airports."
The FAA action follows a letter from AOPA President Phil Boyer to Governor Cayetano, strongly opposing the closing of Dillingham, Waimea-Kohala, Upolu, Kapalua, and Port Allen airports.
In its letter, the FAA advised the governor that the potential cost savings of less than $2 million per year in operation and maintenance costs for the five airports is not adequate to justify the closing of general aviation airports. The FAA recommended that the state pursue strategies to increase airport revenue, including resolving longstanding airport sponsor compliance issues that have precluded for the state being eligible for federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) discretionary funds.
"An airport closure can only be justified when circumstances clearly demonstrate that an airport no longer serves a public purpose," the FAA told Hawaii. "Such drastic action cannot be justified merely because an airport represents a temporal inconvenience or burden of some kind on the airport sponsor."