Mining Funds Would Pay For MIA Renovations, Airport
This one sounds like
something of an ill-considered joke... but it's for real, and no
one is laughing. As bills mount over still-uncompleted renovations
to Miami International Airport's north and south terminals, the
folks who run MIA are hungry for cash... and they think they've
found an answer: turn the Opa-locka West airport (X46) into a
The Miami Herald reports officials at the Miami-Dade Aviation
Department (MDAD) -- based at MIA -- say the small two-runway
airport -- which has been unattended since Hurricane Wilma last
year, and is now used for touch-and-go training operations -- is
seldom used, and is far more valuable as a source for minerals
needed to make concrete and roadfill.
"It's good to have more runways than less, yes, but our airport
is financially stressed," said Miami-Dade County aviation director
Jose Abreu, whose last job was Secretary of the Florida Department
Depending on quality (no studies have been conducted yet, and
none will be until the airport is closed), the minerals in the
ground underneath the field could be worth anywhere from $300
million to $1.2 billion -- money that MIA says it needs to complete
the terminal renovations, as well as for road projects around MIA
and extending runways at Miami Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport
(KTMB) and Homestead General Airport (X51) for jet operations.
Furthermore, the rock could be worth even more to the Florida
Department of Transportation -- especially as a federal judge is
now reviewing FDOT's current source of the material, the so-called
"Lake Belt", for possible environmental impact violations.
"It's an idea that's worth pursuing because we've seen enormous
cost increases [in rock]," said current FDOT Secretary Denver
Stutler to the Herald.
Before mining begins at X46, however, the Federal Aviation
Administration has to grant permission to close the airport... and
several groups have petitioned the FAA to keep Opa-locka West
In a recent letter to the agency, the Opa-locka Airport
Association accused MDAD of allowing Opa-locka West -- as well as
the larger Opa-locka Airport (KOPF) located 10 miles away -- fall
"The reality is that Miami-Dade has intentionally created an
artificial argument that X46 no longer has aeronautical use nor is
needed," wrote the group. "...In the simplest of terms it is
Miami-Dade County's version of having your cake and eating
Closing Opa-locka West would mean the loss of the only open
North-South runway in the county -- as runway 18/36 at KOPF has
been closed by the placement of a temporary tower nearby.
Abreu maintains the
loss of a training airport would mean little to pilots in the area,
since flight simulators located at area training schools has
lessened the need for touch-and-go landings at Opa-locka West.
Abreu adds that pilots training in real, live aircraft could use
Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport (KTNT), located 30
miles west of X46 in the Everglades.
One of the most vocal opponents to closing Opa-locka West is the
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). The group says X46 is not
just a training airport -- but is also used by recreational flyers,
and pilots of ultralights and light-sport aircraft. Opa-locka West
is also the only untowered field in the northern part of the
"One of EAA’s core values is to seek the continued
availability and access to general/recreational aviation
facilities," said Randy Hansen, EAA government relations director.
"It is very disturbing to EAA when a major aviation management
group like MDAD ignores the very grassroots aviation activities
that create today’s, and tomorrow’s cadre of
like Opa-Locka West, the national pilot development program and
their access to flight activities are put at risk," Hansen
The EAA has petitioned the FAA to turn Opa-locka West into a
recreational airpark, instead of allowing it to become a
Officials with MDAD say Opa-locka West is hard to keep
maintained, and is used more often for illegal drag races than
FAA Southern Division Manager Randy Chapman says the agency
understands that West Opa-locka isn't used very often, "But the FAA
prefers that airports not close." Chapman added the agency has
"received a lot of complaints" about closing the field, "including
aircraft owners and pilots."
The FAA is expected to rule on the matter shortly.