St. Charles Airport had 59 based aircraft and nearly 37,000 flight operations a year. But the airport closed June 29, forcing local and transient pilots to use other nearby fields, including St. Charles Smart Field and likely Lambert-St. Louis International. The airport served as a reliever for Lambert traffic.
AOPA had worked with the Airport Support Network volunteer and talked to the state and local fixed-base operator, St. Charles Flying Service, to try to save the field. However, the privately owned, public-use airport had no federal or state grants that would have obligated it to remain open.
The airport offered one paved and two turf runways. According to the FAASTeam, St. Charles Flying Service will relocate to St. Charles Smartt Field.
“Privately owned airports are difficult defend because they are someone’s private property, even if they are open to the public,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy.
Nearly all the public-use airports that close each year are privately owned with no grant obligations.
“Trying to keep privately owned, public-use airports open presents significant challenges,” Dunn said, “especially when the owners haven’t accepted any airport development funds from the FAA or state.”
In addition to working with local pilots, reaching out the community and airport sponsors, AOPA also reaches out to state officials and the FAA for support in protecting the airport. That support comes to airports that have accepted federal or state funding that comes with strings attached. For example, airports that accept federal grants must remain open and be well maintained for the next 20 years. Airports that were purchased in part or whole with federal dollars must remain open in perpetuity. Only an act of Congress can reverse that.
Privately owned airports don’t have that support. But, pilots can still work to protect the privately owned, public-use airports in their areas. AOPA created a white paper with tips for protecting the dwindling number of private airports.