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AOPA argues against unreasonable fee increases at Minneapolis GA reliever airportsAOPA argues against unreasonable fee increases at Minneapolis GA reliever airports

Getting the picture

When AOPA President Phil Boyer was before members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to defend GA in April, he presented them with three framed photographs of general aviation aircraft to help remind them of who their constituency really is.

You see, more than one-half of the 8,000 AOPA members residing in Minnesota are based at one of the six MAC-operated reliever airports. Yet in the MAC's well-appointed offices, there were dozens of pictures of airliners but not one of GA aircraft.

"The three AOPA GA photos are now hanging prominently outside the executive director's office," reports AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn. "The MAC is getting the picture."

AOPA argues against unreasonable fee increases at Minneapolis GA reliever airports

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AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for Flying Cloud Airport Mitch Anderson (left) and Bill Dunn discuss reliever airport issues during the MAC hearing in Minneapolis.

AOPA is continuing its battle to protect aircraft owners in the Minneapolis area from unreasonable charges. Monday evening, AOPA testified against a proposed 260-percent increase in hangar land lease fees at the six general aviation reliever airports operated by the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC).

AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn also argued against a new provision that would give the MAC the unrestrained authority to impose additional special rent assessments to fund new projects or services at the six airports.

The MAC is currently reviewing a range of reliever airport financing issues, largely due to a lawsuit filed by cash-strapped Northwest Airlines and heavy political pressure applied by the hometown-based hub airline.

The MAC had originally considered a 700-percent general aviation hangar rent increase (see " Boyer to MAC: Don't dismantle model airport system to appease Northwest Airlines").

During the Monday night public hearing in Minneapolis, AOPA acknowledged the current proposal was a significant improvement but still questioned if it met the FAA's "reasonableness test."

"The FAA requires that rates and charges imposed on tenants be 'reasonable' and without unjust discrimination," Dunn testified. Noting that the MAC proposal would increase rents by more than 100 percent during 2005 alone, Dunn said, "In our past experiences, we do not believe the FAA would consider such a dramatic single-year increase to be reasonable."

Dunn also argued that the MAC should treat the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and its six reliever airports as an integrated system, rather than individual "profit centers."

"When setting rates and charges, it is important to understand that there is much more to reliever airports than a bottom line that runs in the black," he said.

Reliever airports create value for the airlines by reducing congestion at the hub airport. "This value cannot be measured in rates and charges alone," Dunn said. He compared the airport system to other transportation modes such as light rail and buses, which may not run in the black but do provide value by easing freeway congestion much the way a reliever airport system relieves airport congestion.

He also argued against giving the MAC a "blank check" to add special assessments for new projects, such as a runway extension. "The majority of tenants at that airport may not need or benefit from this project, yet they would be forced to pay for it.... Therefore, AOPA is strongly opposed to this provision unless some form of checks and balances are incorporated into the provision that will allow tenants more than just consultation," Dunn testified.

September 29, 2004

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