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FAA to Oceanside: Airport will stay open

FAA to Oceanside: Airport will stay open

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Oceanside Municipal Airport in Southern California isn't going anywhere - it will remain open in perpetuity. The FAA made that crystal clear last week in a letter to Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood.

"Over the years, some Oceanside officials have been trying to let the airport go quietly. They're claiming to 'improve' the airport, but in actuality, they're laying plans to close the airport in 20 years," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn. "Anti-airport activists and developers should take the FAA's proactive stance to ensure the facility's future viability as a sign to back off.

"AOPA and the FAA see right through their scheme."

Here's Oceanside's plan, which was approved in November 2006.

  • Build 40 new hangars on the south side of the airport to increase $3.9 million in revenue for the airport enterprise fund
  • Pursue nonaviation-related commercial development on the north side
  • Reject all federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds in order to close the airport in 20 years when the current grant obligations expire

The problem with their scheme: The airport cannot be closed - ever - because part of the airport's property (roughly 14 acres on the north side) was purchased with federal money specifically for airport development.

"When you take FAA funds for land acquisition, the grant obligates the entire airport, not just that bought with FAA funding," Dunn said.

"Choosing not to accept additional AIP funds or making an offer to repay past AIP grants will not change the city's federal obligation to keep the airport open indefinitely," the FAA wrote.

The few times airports in this situation have been allowed to close has been because it would bring a greater benefit to the aviation industry - that's not the case with Oceanside.

"Because of the important role that this airport plays, the FAA does not anticipate granting any request for release to allow closure of the airport," the agency said, adding that its stance would not change now or in the future.

The FAA also made recommendations as to how the city could better spend its time on airport planning.

  • Use the north side of the airport (which must be used for aviation purposes) to build 100 hangars, generating more than $12 million over 25 years
  • Continue to accept AIP funds to keep the airport functioning

"We hope the city officials understand that their futile attempts to close this airport will not succeed," Dunn said. "We stand ready to help the city invest in their airport in order to reap the maximum economic benefit of having a world-class facility."

January 30, 2007

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