The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has fired a shot across the bow to warn of a new group of developers who want to close Hawthorne Municipal Airport, a key reliever airport east of Los Angeles International.
The city of Hawthorne recently granted an "exclusive right" to Arden Realty, Inc. and Paladin Partners, LLC to create a plan to build a sports stadium and retail outlets on the site of Hawthorne Municipal.
"AOPA has opposed all past efforts to close this airport," AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Bill Dunn wrote the developers, "and we wish to advise Arden Realty, Paladin Partners, and the city of Hawthorne that we strongly oppose this latest assault as well."
For the past two years, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Gary Parsons has worked with AOPA headquarters to beat back numerous efforts to close Hawthorne.
AOPA told developers that the airport property had certain "strings" attached to it. The city has accepted user-funded FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants. Those grants require the city to continuing operating the airport until at least 2011.
Moreover, Dunn told the developers, the federal government had originally deeded some airport land to the city. Such federal land transfer agreements never expire.
"The deed restrictions require that if the city no longer operates the property as an airport, the property will revert to the federal government," Dunn wrote. "The city does not have the authority to sell or transfer this airport land to your development group."
One proposal would reposition the airport slightly south of its current site. But AOPA advised developers to carefully examine the costs associated with building a new general aviation airport in an urbanized area, including environmental cleanup costs at the proposed relocation site.
"It is also highly unlikely that the FAA would fund moving the airport," said Dunn. "The FAA has already bought the airport once!"
AOPA told the city of Hawthorne to "resist the illusion of an economic windfall" from developing the airport property and to consider compatible industrial development on surrounding property. "Airports are gems for economic development and growth," AOPA said.
AOPA also reminded the city that the airspace around Hawthorne airport protects the city from low-level heavy jet traffic approaching nearby Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
"LAX has already acquired airspace west of Hawthorne," Dunn said. "Ironically, the single most important factor preventing airline jets flying low over 120th Street in Hawthorne is the Hawthorne Municipal Airport."
"AOPA will oppose any development effort that will have a detrimental impact on the Hawthorne airport," Dunn concluded.
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are some 48,000 California pilots.
September 27, 2000