Suddenly, the rumors; your favorite privately owned airport is going to be sold to a developer! What can you do?
"If the airport is privately owned, it's much more difficult to prevent its closing," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. "While there is much less pressure that AOPA can bring, it's still possible to save it. And success is more likely when the majority of local pilots are involved - and involved early."
To help with that, AOPA has just prepared a new "white paper" titled " Airport Closures at Privately Owned/Public-Use Airports."
Most public-use airports are owned by local or state government entities. And because most publicly owned airports get federal funds, or were originally federal property deeded to local agencies, there are rules and contracts in place that make it difficult to close them.
But a privately owned airport, even if it is open to general public use, is still private property - meaning the owner can do what he wants with the property, within the limits of local zoning ordinances. And that includes turning it into a strip mall or housing development.
"However, a strategic and determined effort by local pilots and concerned citizens can keep a privately owned airport open," said Dunn. "Our white paper and other available AOPA resources can show you how. Local pilots must be active in the process."
It's important to establish an airport association, and then enlist the support of the rest of the community.
"Local tenants, airport users, businesses, and other interested parties must be the first line of defense," said Dunn.
"And remember; it can be done. When local pilots really care, privately owned airports can be saved. Some privately owned airports have been saved when local pilots actually bought the airport from the owner. And when they don't care, money talks and the airport walks."
January 3, 2006