AOPA President Phil Boyer this week told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey that continued pressure from her agency to enforce airport grant obligations is crucial to protecting America's airports. At a meeting between Blakey, FAA senior leaders, and the General Aviation Coalition, Boyer highlighted several instances, including the latest win in St. Petersburg, in which the threat of FAA grant obligation enforcement actions protected a GA airport.
"Every time the FAA holds an airport sponsor to the letter of its grant obligations, it sends an unmistakable message to every other airport sponsor in the country that they too will be held accountable," Boyer said after the meeting. "It's the single biggest stick the FAA has for preserving airports."
During the meeting with Blakey, Boyer pointed to this week's victory at St. Petersburg, Florida's Albert Whitted Airport, in which voters decided overwhelmingly to keep the airport open. While there were other issues at play there, the threat that the city might have to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars if they closed the airport 10 years before the grants were due to expire certainly worried some voters.
At Oceanside Airport in California, the FAA used grant obligations to block a proposed curfew. In Pompano Beach, Florida, the city met with developers and airport tenants and users after a proposed development threatened the airport and the FAA warned such a development would violate grant obligations.
"We've been encouraged by the FAA's vigorous enforcement of grant obligations," said Boyer. "Now we're looking for similar enforcement in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, where the Minneapolis Airport Commission (MAC), which operates the international airport and six GA reliever airports, is under pressure by an airline to curtail spending at the GA airports. The fair treatment of these airports is ensured by the threat of losing federal dollars."