Aviation Advocacy Group Dumped $100,000 Into Save Whitted
AOPA budgeted $100,000 to save Albert Whitted Airport in St.
Petersburg (FL). Here's what they had to say after voters
overwhelmingly decided to keep the airport:
The polls have closed,
the votes are in, and the only losers in the battle over St.
Petersburg's Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) are the developers who
were eying the airport for high-rise condos.
"The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is pleased that the
voters of St. Petersburg have finally put to rest the threat to
this vital and vibrant airport," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
"Albert Whitted is a gateway that brings much business into the St.
Petersburg area. It's also an integral part of the national air
transport system, so its fate was an issue for pilots across the
By an almost three-to-one margin, St. Petersburg voters chose to
keep the bayfront airport open in perpetuity, ignoring a
well-financed, highly orchestrated campaign to shut Albert Whitted
down and turn half of it into a park.
Because of the national
implications of closing Albert Whitted, AOPA took an active hand,
working closely with two local airport support groups. AOPA Vice
President of Airports Bill Dunn made frequent trips to St.
Petersburg in the weeks before the election, meeting with city
officials to explain the benefits and importance of keeping the
airport open. He also met with the airport support groups to
determine how AOPA could best help their cause.
The association hired a local political consultant to help
spread the message that the airport is important to the city. AOPA
also placed television and print advertisements in local media and
conducted a direct-mail campaign to give voters accurate
Although significantly overmatched financially by their
opponents, the two local pro-airport groups mounted effective,
highly visible campaigns to educate voters about the true issues at
stake. They staged a large rally the evening before the vote,
garnering extensive coverage from local television stations.
At the same time, anti-airport activists all but disappeared
from view after two polls, one conducted by AOPA and the other by
the usually anti-airport St. Petersburg Times newspaper, each found
that three out of every four likely voters favored keeping the
airport open. Tuesday night's numbers mirrored those polls.
The voters saw through the anti-airport agitators who were
backed by large donations from developers and recognized that the
other half of the airport could end up high-rise condos that, far
from keeping the waterfront open, would block it from view for
thousands of residents.
"Although I'm sure it doesn't feel like it now, even those who
in good conscience opposed the airport have won, because it
benefits the city that they love," said Boyer.
The 400,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil
aviation organization. AOPA is committed to ensuring the continued
viability, growth, and development of aviation and airports in the
United States. These airports are a vital and critical component of
a national transportation system.