AOPA President Phil Boyer
and ASN volunteer Jack Tunstill
Jan. 22, 2004 - AOPA President Phil Boyer honored Jack Tunstill, the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer for St. Petersburg, Fla.'s Albert Whitted Airport, at a surprise dinner tonight. Tunstill was the driving force locally behind the triumphant effort to save the bayside airport, working in close coordination with AOPA's Airports department.
"Jack epitomizes the ASN volunteer," said Boyer. "He spoke out in strong defense of Albert Whitted in the face of apparently overwhelming odds. He worked to coordinate the efforts of two airport support groups - the Airport Advisory Council and the Albert Whitted Airport Preservation Society - both of which are represented here tonight. He helped St. Petersburg residents understand the true consequences of the anti-airport ballot initiative. In short, he supported his airport and he never gave up."
Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) had been under attack by a group that wanted to close the airport and turn half of it into a waterfront park. The proposal did not mention what was to become of the other half of the airport property, but because backers of the park proposal included a real estate developer, residents were concerned that more waterfront high-rises might be in the works.
Thanks to Tunstill's efforts, in concert with the airport support groups and AOPA, St. Petersburg voters overwhelmingly supported keeping Albert Whitted open in perpetuity, three-to-one in favor, and rejected a companion measure to turn the land into a park by a similar margin.
As a result of the vote, St. Petersburg's mayor, who had never been a strong airport backer, has recognized the will of his constituents and has reached out to AOPA for support in revitalizing Albert Whitted.
The Presidential Citation Boyer presented to Tunstill read in part, "For your leadership, tenacity and advocacy for Albert Whitted Airport. Your successful efforts ensure that SPG remains an airport and preserve this vital transportation link in the nation's air transportation system."
AOPA established the Airport Support Network more than five years ago to help stem the tide of airport closures. The network has grown to include volunteers at nearly 1,600 general aviation airports across the country. ASN volunteers act as advocates for their local airports in their communities and before local governments. They are also AOPA's liaisons with individual airports, making sure the association is aware of any issues at the airports. In return, AOPA offers the volunteers the resources they need to advocate on behalf of the airport, as well as technical and tactical support if the airport is under fire.
"Our nation continues to lose too many airports every year," said Boyer. "We desperately need people like Jack and the rest of our nearly 1,600 ASN volunteers to ensure that our best-in-the-world aviation system remains strong."