AOPA raised the profile of Puerto Rico’s general aviation community and brought pilots’ needs to the attention of territorial officials during a three-day visit that included touring all the airports on the island.
AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Jared Esselman met with AOPA members and Airport Support Network volunteers, bringing their concerns to Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Javier García Padilla, and Ingrid Colberg, executive director of the Puerto Rico Port Authority, during his March 3 through 6 tour.
Pilots were eager to discuss the state of the island’s aviation system, which Esselman learned about on the ground and in meetings with the president of the Aero Club and several Airport Support Network volunteers.
“Some very clear common issues emerged from the meetings,” he said. “Specifically, landing fees and the collection of those fees was a concern for both local pilots and the port authority.”
AOPA and FAA representatives visited every airport on the island and assessed the conditions of runways, taxiways, terminals, and hangar spaces.
“We took this information to our meeting with Governor García Padilla. The governor requested that the executive director of the ports authority attend the meeting to discuss possible resolutions and common ground,” he said.
One immediate result should be repairing potholes on the taxiway at Culebra, Esselman said.
Esselman told pilots, who had eagerly awaited the discussions, that AOPA “will follow up with the ports authority and the governor’s office with recommendations on more favorable funding structures for the aviation system as well as the possibility of legislative engagement on behalf of general aviation.”
Esselman also addressed students at the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico’s school of aviation, discussing the benefits of AOPA membership, and highlighting the potential of a career in aviation.