But FAA Won't Send Money Until Stage 2 Jet Ban Lifted
If you fly into Naples Municipal
Airport in Florida, look closely along the side of the runway.
You'll see a very long extension cord -- it's what's feeding
electricity to the runway lights.
"Our lighting went out in the middle of the summer when all the
hurricanes were hitting," said Airport Authority Executive Director
Ted Soliday, in an interview with the Naples Daily News. "We had
three or four direct (lightning) hits to our power on our main
runway. We had hundreds of yards of power line that was literally
fried.... We went almost a week without lights on our main
In the wake of Hurricane Charley, which sideswiped Naples on
August 13th, the Naples Airport Authority is all set to start the
second phase of its runway lighting project -- except for one
little thing: that pesky Stage Two Jet Ban.
The Authority has refused to allow older, louder jets to operate
from Naples Municipal Airport. Until that situation changes, the FAA won't cough
up a grant for the lighting project.
In essence, even though the FAA sent a grant to Naples that
helped cover the $1.6 million first phase of the lighting project,
the Authority is going to have to kick in all $1.3 million for the
project -- at least as front money -- until the Stage Two
controversy can be settled to the FAA's satisfaction. And the
interesting thing about it is, the Authority seems to have the
backing of local pilots.
"The airport authority is doing a
job that is consistent with part of its mandate," pilot Scott
Cameron told the Daily News. "I don't think it is unusual that they
would front the money to complete the project. It is part of an
overall program of safety. Any good airport is going to have a good
lighting system. Can we land in an airport without lights? Yeah. Is
it safe? Not as safe as when you do have lights. Will (this phase
of the lighting project) probably avert some kind of a mishap or
something like that? Certainly it could play a role in that."
Cameron sees the entire funding dispute as something of an
inter-governmental game of chicken. He's confident that, mindful of
the safety issue at Naples Municipal, the FAA will eventually
relent and reimburse the Airport Authority for the runway lighting
"The FAA realizes it is a critical element of safety," Cameron
told the Naples paper.
Not everyone, however, is of the same mind as Cameron. Take
Scott Phillips, for instance. Like the FAA, he is engaged in an
epic legal battle with the airport. His case is over the right to
sell fuel there. The Airport Authority says he can't sell fuel and
wants him to pay $5 million for existing sales it considers
"illegal." His suggestion: The Authority should
just give in.
"I don't think it's right," he told
the Daily News, referring to the amount of money that Naples is
spending on the lighting project.
But Authority chieftain Soliday says he'll stay the course with
the lighting project -- and with the legal battle over Stage Two
"We really are capable of handling this," Soliday told the
paper. "We are watching our cash flow very carefully. If the fight
with the FAA is protracted, we may have to borrow."