AOPA this weekend told the FAA that current plans to privatize New Orleans' Lakefront Airport (NEW) are seriously flawed.
At a public hearing held Saturday by the FAA at AOPA's request, Bill Dunn, the association's vice president of regional affairs, told the agency that the plan under consideration is not in the best interest of airport users.
"AOPA does not oppose the concept of the airport privatization program as a way to bring private capital to airport improvements," Dunn told the FAA representatives, "but the proposal for Lakefront as currently structured would likely do more harm than good, could provide the private operator of the airport with an unfair competitive advantage, and could put existing businesses operating at the airport at risk."
The FAA formally proposed privatizing NEW in January. The current owner, the Orleans Levy District, claims the airport is losing money.
"AOPA always reviews these types of proposals," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula, "because they allow so much of the airport funds to be legally diverted from airport purposes. About a year and a half ago, AOPA successfully opposed privatization of San Diego's Brown Field in San Diego because planning for general aviation did not properly accommodate the needs of all pilots."
At Saturday's hearing, Dunn also told the FAA representatives that AOPA is concerned about the lack of financial information publicly available about the proposed private sponsor of the airport, American Airports Corporation. AAC has sought to keep their company financial records confidential.
"Our in-depth review of the AAC proposal leads us to believe the proponent has little financial risk in this transaction and is investing very little of their own money in return for receiving the keys and total control of a vital general aviation facility," Dunn told the panel. Until the proposal is more airport and user friendly, Dunn said, AOPA has no alternative but to oppose the project in its current form.