AOPA Continues The Mission, Fighting For Florida Airports Under
Even with the victory in
the battle to save St. Petersburg's Albert Whitted Airport safely
under its belt, AOPA continues to fight for embattled airports in
the Sunshine State.
In Pompano Beach, in Naples, and in Stuart, AOPA is actively
working to counter efforts by anti-airport activists to close or
restrict local airports.
At Pompano Beach, AOPA is drafting a formal complaint to be
filed with the FAA, after the city commissioners there voted
unanimously to expand restrictions on flight training and
helicopter operations at Pompano Beach Airpark (PMP).
"The city attorney told them not to do it. The outside experts
hired by the commissioners themselves strongly advised against it.
They did it anyway," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill
Since 1996, the city has prohibited stop-and-go operations and
limited touch-and-go operations to 9-to-5 Monday through Friday
with none allowed on holidays. That left only taxiing back to the
end of the runway as a training option.
The new ordinance places similar restrictions on both taxi-back
and helicopter operations. One commissioner was quoted in the local
paper as saying he voted for the ordinance to see how the FAA would
"This opens a whole can of worms they may wish had stayed
closed," said Dunn.
"As their own consultants pointed out, it gives the FAA a chance
to revisit the 1996 noise restrictions. And under both former
Administrator Jane Garvey and current Administrator Marion Blakey,
the FAA has been increasingly willing to use deed and grant
obligations to prevent airport sponsors from restricting legal
In Stuart, Fla., where anti-airport activists are pushing for
downsizing or outright closure of Witham Field (SUA), AOPA Regional
Representative Nelson Rhodes this week attended a marathon Martin
County commission meeting to discuss the downsizing option.
Rhodes told the commissioners that AOPA would insist that the
county comply with state and federal laws and obligations. He also
said that AOPA would work with the commission and local pilots to
promote voluntary noise abatement measures.
The commissioners showed little appetite for a court battle or a
fight with the FAA. Rhodes said that for now, the crisis situation
at Witham Field appears to have subsided somewhat. But AOPA plans
to pay special attention during the next county elections, when
anti-airport forces are expected to try to elect a more sympathetic
slate of commissioners.
The Martin County commissioners are also paying close attention
to a federal court case challenging the city of Naples, Florida's
ordinance prohibiting Stage 2 aircraft at Naples Municipal Airport
(APF). A court victory for Naples could prompt Martin County to
draft similar noise restrictions for Witham Field.
AOPA has petitioned to file a friend of the court brief (amicus
curiae) in that case, and if granted, plans to argue that authority
for controlling access to airports resides solely with the federal
government since local airports are part of a national system. "The
situations at all three of these airports serve as case studies in
the problems encroachment and incompatible land use can cause,"
"It's in the best interest of everyone - pilot, airport neighbor
and airport sponsor - to take a long-range look at how zoning
around airports will affect both the community and the airport