It's a story repeated across the nation — greedy developers eyeing airports as prime property for making a quick buck. This time it's Jekyll Island Airport (09J) in Georgia's idyllic Golden Isles region. And the AOPA team has sprung to the airport's defense.
The Jekyll Island Authority wants to close the airport. But AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Lynne Birmingham has been waging a campaign to ensure officials understand the importance of the airport to island residents and tourism. The association's regional representative, Bob Minter, is weighing in with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, himself an AOPA member. (The governor appoints the members of the Jekyll Island Authority.)
The FAA also is taking a tough stance, reminding the island authority that the airport has accepted federal grant money and must keep the airport open "in a safe and serviceable condition" until at least 2022. The authority has accepted more than $895,000 in federal grant money. In addition, federal law allows general aviation airports to be considered "open space" in regional development plans — something Jekyll Island needs.
The FAA has been much tougher on enforcing federal grant rules ever since AOPA complained to Congress in 1999 about the agency's laxity in protecting airports. Today the FAA realizes the importance of protecting airports. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told members attending AOPA Expo 2004, "The Airport Support Network is a terrific idea. You're saying loud and clear: 'If you want to get at my airport, you're going to have to come through me!' .... And we at the FAA are fighting the battles right along with you.... Airports are a national resource. Just like our forests. Once they're gone, they're gone. And I, for one, think we need to do a better job protecting the framework of our national transportation system. America needs airports."
November 4, 2004