Key Decisions Pending

While an FBO coalition and airport groups work through their differences on leases and the role of the private sector, two decisions could have a major impact ...

As has been written here and elsewhere, a coalition of FBOs in concert with NATA is pushing airport groups to adopt policies that encourage long-term leases for tenants.They also oppose airports competing with the private sector.

ACI-NA president Greg Principato, at the group’s annual meeting in San Diego, relates: “We certainly wanted to foster dialog. It’s pretty obvious that there’s a need for better understanding on both sides of that discussion.

“The place we draw the line is the legislative proposal of legislating for 39 years – we’re not going to support that. Legislating that airports can’t get into certain activities – we’re not going to support that. But all the rest of it is open for discussion; it’s open for better understanding. Certainly, you want both parties across the table to understand the the other’s business as well as possible. Their success depends on each other.”

Two items that could have an effect of where this discussion goes are a Part 16 complaint filed with FAA by TAC Air and a federal lawsuit initiated by Private Sky Aviation at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW).

TAC Air’s filing comes after the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority built a second FBO terminal and contracted with Wilson Air Center to provide FBO services, in competition with TAC Air. The latter’s main concerns are that the authority used grant monies to build the facility, and may not be adhering to its own set of minimum standards.

Comments TAC Air president Greg Arnold, “Pure and simple, it’s not fair to force us to compete with a subsidized entity.”

As head of an FBO chain, Arnold says his experience has seen a “mixed bag” when it comes to airports and lease lengths. “There have been airports that haven’t wanted to work with us, while others have been very helpful.”

At an NBAA press briefing in Las Vegas, Private Sky Aviation CEO Vincent M. Wolanin outlined the reasons for his company’s lawsuit against the Lee County Port Authority. Private Sky is the lone FBO at RSW; however, the county operates the FBO at nearby Page Field and it recently constructed a new $16 million FBO terminal at the airfield.

Wolanin charges that the county is competing unfairly, may have used grant monies improperly, and isn’t subject to the same fees and taxes that a private FBO pays.

“We feel this is going to mushroom to other communities,” says Wolanin. “I decided we wanted to make law about this.”

He also suggests that FAA may need to delve deeper into how grant monies are used: “You would think FAA would look at the impact of grant money on the private sector. We can’t find any evidence that they do that.”

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