AOPA has requested that the Department of Homeland Security establish security screening capabilities and gateway operations at Palm Beach County Park Airport to ease the economic impact of shutting down the airport each time President Donald Trump visits his nearby Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, AOPA President Mark Baker urged adopting measures to allow limited operations at the general aviation airport during temporary flight restrictions in effect for presidential visits.
It has been estimated that the operators of Palm Beach County Park Airport—a Palm Beach International Airport reliever field also known as Lantana Airport—lost $30,000 as a result of one three-day weekend visit by Trump to Mar-a-Lago.
The TFR prohibited any aircraft from departing the airport, which on a typical weekend would have about 200 aircraft operations daily.
The flight ban results from the airport’s location within the 10-nautical-mile-radius no-fly inner ring of a standard presidential TFR. The U.S. Secret Service requires that all aircraft and passengers undergo TSA security screening before operating in the inner zone.
Since December 2016, AOPA has made multiple requests to the FAA to create an airspace cutout from the inner core for Lantana Airport, and recently requested a meeting on the matter. During the first three TFRs associated with Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago—located just 5 nm from Lantana Airport—no cutout was authorized.
An alternative to allow the airport to operate in limited fashion would be making security screening available at the airport.
“A fixed base operator, Stellar Aviation at Lantana Airport, has a 300-square-foot office that is available for passenger and luggage screening and is ready to work with the TSA to implement gateway operations,” Baker wrote.
He noted that addressing the financial impact of TFRs on the Lantana Airport will be additionally important if the president makes frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago and stays for extended periods.
The TSA has a “long history” of working with industry and government partners to establish gateways, Baker added, “when it is feasible and the case warrants.”
AOPA has urged Florida’s two senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel to request that the TSA establish security screening capabilities and gateway operations at Palm Beach County Park Airport.