The FAA has sent a stern warning to the City of Rialto, California, that if it tries to sell or close Rialto Municipal Airport (L67), there will be heavy consequences to pay. AOPA had asked the FAA's airports division head in Washington, D.C., to get more involved following the association's attempts to get accurate information from the city about its future plans for the field.
But the city has shown a blatant disregard for state and federal law, despite millions of dollars worth of support from the government. The city claims that it cannot afford to operate the airport, yet it has repeatedly rejected proposals for aviation businesses. AOPA believes the proposed closure and redevelopment of airport property for other purposes is driven by local real estate developers who see gold in the soon to be completed Highway 210 bypass.
On March 15, the city held a public meeting to discuss the proposed sale of several hundred acres of airport land or possibly closing it altogether.
In a letter to the city, the FAA pointed out that the city has accepted federal funds for airport development under the Airport Improvement Program, meaning that the land can't be sold unless the FAA concurs and formally releases it. Not likely. In fact, the federal government has provided more than $14.9 million in airport development grants to the city, of which $9.1 million was specifically used for land acquisition.
"We remain convinced of the importance of the airport in the national and regional aviation systems, and we have seen no information that would support the release of a major portion of the airport property," the FAA said in the letter to the city.
Over the last few years, the FAA has raised concerns over the city's lack of compliance with federal obligations such as not properly maintaining the airport; failing to set up a fee and rental structure for facilities to make the airport as self-sustaining as possible; and permitting non-aeronautical activities like car racing without FAA consent.
The FAA said that until the matter is resolved, it would not approve additional grant funding. If the city moves to try to sell the land, the FAA threatened to sue the city and recover all the funds it has invested in the airport.
April 5, 2005