As airports in different parts of the country consider proposals that would turn the airport over to private operators, AOPA is drawing a line in the sand.
"We simply will not accept any proposal to privatize a GA airport that is not in the best interest of the national transportation system or general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We are currently fighting specific proposals, and we have sought legislation to ensure pilots have a voice in any future privatization plans."
For example, AOPA continues to oppose a privatization proposal for New Orleans' Lakefront Airport (NEW). The American Airports Corporation (AAC), a private, for-profit operator, wants to lease the airport from the Orleans Levee District for 50 years. It plans to transform it from New Orleans' primary general aviation reliever into an airport that caters to charters and corporate aircraft, squeezing small piston aircraft off the airport. Funds generated by the airport could be used for off-airport purposes.
AOPA has opposed the proposal, developed without specific input and approval by general aviation users, because it also lacks sufficient private investment that could lead to increases in rates and charges.
AOPA President Boyer did meet with ACC and levee district representatives at their request, but he said, "I'm merely making good on my pledge that this will have a fair review in the best interests of GA pilots and aircraft owners."
AOPA is still asking the FAA to reject the proposal in its current form.
But as airport privatization is becoming an issue elsewhere, AOPA has worked to ensure pilots have a voice in determining what is best for their airport.
This year, AOPA Legislative Affairs worked with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking Democrat on the House aviation subcommittee. He sponsored Section 155 of "Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act," which requires that 65 percent of the owners of aircraft based at the airport must approve a proposed airport privatization.
"Based on our experience in the New Orleans proposal, we felt it was vital that general aviation be a part of the consultative process for airport privatization proposals," said Andy Cebula, senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "Pilots need to know and have a say-so in these airport outsourcing efforts."
The reauthorization act is currently awaiting final approval by Congress.