The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration alleging that the city of Austin (Texas) has violated federal agreements in its operations of the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
"AOPA has continually voiced concerns about the lack of adequate and reasonably priced general aviation facilities at Austin-Bergstrom Airport," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president for regional affairs. "All of the services for general aviation at the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport were supposed to be available at Bergstrom. They aren't."
(Austin closed Mueller Airport, a thriving general aviation and airline facility convenient to the city, in 1999. Operations were transferred to the former Bergstrom Air Force Base, which was converted for civilian use.)
AOPA filed a so-called "Part 13 informal complaint," asking the FAA to investigate whether Austin had violated federal agreements by granting exclusive rights for just two fixed-base operators (FBOs) to operate at Bergstrom. The FBO agreements prohibit any other company from providing fuel, tiedown and hangar space, maintenance services, and other needed GA services at the airport.
But such exclusive agreements violate federal regulations, AOPA told the FAA. When the city of Austin accepted some $132 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds, it also accepted certain "grant assurances," including a promise that Austin would "permit no exclusive right for the use of the airport by any persons providing, or intending to provide, aeronautical services to the public."
The city had also promised to relocate all aviation activity from Mueller Airport to Austin-Bergstrom, but it turned down a 1999 request from a third company that had been operating at Mueller to provide general aviation services at the new airport.
Dunn told the FAA that AOPA members are not being provided adequate services at Austin-Bergstrom. Members believe that the existing FBOs are servicing larger business and corporate aircraft almost exclusively. Pilots also are finding that access to the new city-sponsored tiedown area is "inconvenient and cumbersome."
AOPA has also been working in conjunction with the Aviation Association of Central Texas to resolve the problems at Austin-Bergstrom.
AOPA asked the FAA for an "investigation in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulation Part 13.1, 'Informal Resolution,' into the potential violation by the city of Austin of their grant assurances through entering into an exclusive rights agreement." (An attempt at informal resolution is required before a formal complaint can be filed.)
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 56 percent of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are some 24,000 Texas pilots.
May 31, 2000