The Federal Aviation Administration will inspect Middle Georgia Regional Airport today to gauge how far it has come since a series of violations were noted in December, an administration spokeswoman said.
Tuesday marked the last day of a 60-day window for the city to address various problems, particularly a lack of qualified personnel at the airport, which was specifically cited in a Dec. 22 FAA letter.
Failure to correct the problems could lead to a suspension of the airport's operating certificate, closing Middle Georgia Regional to commercial flights. But FAA officials have been in contact with city staff during the past two months and don't want that to happen, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said Tuesday.
"We want to see the airport remain open to commercial service," Bergen said. "We view this deadline (Tuesday) ... as a deadline after which we will re-evaluate where the airport stands."
After the inspection, FAA staff will huddle and reassess the airport's status, Bergen said.
One of the main sticking points at the airport has been the lack of an operations manager, but Regina McDuffie, Macon's chief administrative officer, said Tuesday evening that the city has offered the job to someone who has "tentatively accepted." Salary negotiations remain, McDuffie said.
Meanwhile, the city might bring in temporary help from a private airport management company, TBI Airport Management Inc., McDuffie said. TBI owns several airports in Europe and South America and helps manage others in the United States, including Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida, according to the company's Web site.
Bergen described TBI as a company "experienced in managing commercial service airports ... (that) can address the issues."
Specifically, Bergen said TBI has experience with part 139 of the FAA Airport Certification Manual - the section the city was cited from in the Dec. 22 letter.
The FAA has emphasized that experience with this section of FAA regulations is key as the city also looks to hire a new aviation director. Former director George Brown left the airport in January after a falling out with Mayor Jack Ellis. He has since appealed his case to City Council in an effort to get his job back. Former Macon aviation director Rex Elder is back in the job temporarily.
The city also is dealing with separate airport issues cited by the Transportation Security Administration, and the deadline to address those is March 31, McDuffie has said.
For now, Middle Georgia Regional Airport remains open to commercial flights. It retains its operating certificate and "continues to operate as it always has," Bergen said.
However, Bergen also said the situation at Middle Georgia Regional is an unusual one.
"It's very rare for FAA to be involved with an airport that has these kind of discrepancies," she said. "Many airports, even big airports, go for years without any discrepancies."
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