Impact of the 2002 games

Impact of the 2002 games Flight restrictions limit economic boost for operators in, around SLC By John Boyce, Contributing Editor April 2002 Many general aviation businesses in the Salt Lake City area report that the XIX Winter...


Impact of the 2002 games

Flight restrictions limit economic boost for operators in, around SLC

By John Boyce, Contributing Editor

April 2002

Many general aviation businesses in the Salt Lake City area report that the XIX Winter Olympic Games proved to be a slippery slope to near disaster. Others report some spike in business activity, but only one FBO reports having the kind of success that you might expect from such an important event.

Impact on Business - A Constitutional Question

Martin O'Loughlin isn't a rabble rouser. He recently retired after 20 years as a naval aviator and during that time took seriously his oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Now he wants the Constitution to protect him.

O'Loughlin is the president and CEO of Great Western Aviation with six locations in and around Salt Lake City. A major portion of his business comes from flight training; in fact, his is the largest flight school in Utah and the only Part 141 flight school in the state.

During the recent Salt Lake Winter Olympics, the federal government in the form of the FAA commanded all flight school and all VFR flight operations within the 45-nautical mile security perimeter around Salt Lake to cease and desist for the duration of the Games.

Five of O'Loughlin's facilities were inside the 45-mile Olympic Ring Airspace (ORA), meaning his flight schools and his 65 rental aircraft were grounded for 17 days with the concomitant loss of revenue. That, O'Loughlin thinks, violates a clause in the 5th Amendment which states that the government shall not take private property without just compensation.

"To me that was a a very clear-cut seizure of business," O'Loughlin says, "and I understand it. It was probably lawful, it was probably in the common interest, so to speak. But I think it should be compensated.

"I would like to do it in an artful way, rather than be a rabble rouser and making it sound as if it's all over money, because a larger chunk of money was lost through all the decisions of a lot of private individuals (fliers buying fuel elsewhere) but this is a constitutional issue. If the government, in their pursuit of homeland security, is going to make decisions like this then they need to be aware of some of the costs...."

O'Loughlin points out that a lot of money was made during the Olympics but there is very little recognition of the costs to people and businesses. "...I just want some awareness on the part of the American people that there is a lot of money being made but there is a lot of cost being borne.
"We were the only business that I can think of where the federal government told us we couldn't operate. We have 65 aircraft for rental; they couldn't operate...."

O'Loughlin has not decided on just how to go about pressing his claim for compensation.

The remarks from fixed base operators in the vicinity of the Games ran the gamut from "It really was a disaster," from Greg Dilley, president of Ogden Jet Center in Ogden, UT, to "We were running from 6 a.m. to midnight and sometimes into the middle of the night," from Mike LaSalle, business manager at Star West Aviation in Evanston, WY.

Dilley estimates his business lost over $1 million during the Olympics while LaSalle reports that he sold some 135,000 gallons of jet fuel in an operation that "normally in February I might pump 4,000 gallons of jet fuel."

Apart from Star West, most of the 17 FBOs contacted for this article at 12 airports in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho report that, regardless of the level of activity, business didn't increase as much as they expected. Jim Buswell, president of Colorado Jet Center in Colorado Springs, makes the point about expectations when he says, "Obviously, we had a fairly substantial increase in business for that two-week period, but it wasn't anywhere near what they anticipated it would be."

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