Lewiston-Nez Perce Airport Director: FAA Rules Followed During Events

Nov. 19, 2020

Nov. 18—The top executive of the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport acknowledges his facility spent $220 on two memorial services and a private political event held on the premises of the transportation hub.

But, in a written response to a Federal Aviation Administration investigation launched in August, Airport Director Michael Isaacs maintains the facility followed all the rules, including those of the Transportation Security Administration and the FAA.

"Although these expenditures do not violate the airport's revenue obligations, going forward it will explore options for recouping additional expenditures for future events," Isaacs wrote in the response obtained by the Tribune on Tuesday through a records request.

The airport expects a reply from the FAA, but doesn't know when that will arrive, said Thad O'Sullivan, the airport's attorney. The FAA didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The FAA began examining gatherings at the Lewiston airport after Robin Turner, a retired manager of the facility, raised concerns in a July email about the use of airport resources not related to aviation and potential security issues.

In the email, Turner also questioned a decision to revoke the lease of Stout Flying Service for what the airport authority board described as a lapse in its insurance coverage.

Turner wondered, in the email, if the airport authority board was holding Airport Authority Board Chairman Gary Peters to the same standard as Stout Flying Service.

The airport board has since resolved the Stout Flying Service issue in a mediated settlement and that disagreement is not part of the FAA investigation.

Stout Flying Service has until about the end of February to find a buyer for its business or vacate its airport premises under the terms of the settlement reached at the end of October. Ralph Stout, an owner of the business, is allowed to work as a pilot if the venture is under new ownership.

Turner stated in his email that Peters has a hangar at the airport where he held a memorial service.

That remembrance is part of what the FAA is looking at and O'Sullivan confirmed Tuesday that the ceremony was in a hangar Peters subleases.

"Myself and the entire airport staff have diligently prepared for all events that have taken place here in the past and will continue to do so in the future," Peters said in a text Tuesday. "We look forward to many more positive events and the opportunity to safely share our (community's) passion for aviation on the Lewiston Airport."

What was in Turner's email, Isaacs wrote, was "based upon incomplete and inaccurate information and supposition."

The airport spent $160 on the ceremony that Peters hosted, with the money paying for employees who kept the airport premises secure without interfering with their other duties or requiring overtime pay, Isaacs wrote.

A memorial service for a different aviator and a private political event cost the airport $30 each, Isaacs wrote.

Similar to the memorial Peters coordinated, the employees handled security tasks without overtime pay in a way that didn't prevent them from completing other job responsibilities, Isaacs wrote.

None of the expenses violated FAA rules, he wrote, noting the FAA allows airport revenue to be used to increase public and industry awareness of an airport's facilities and services.

"While not specifically directed toward promoting public awareness of the airport's facilities and services, the expenditure (for the memorials) served this purpose as well," Isaacs wrote.

The men honored in the services were pilots with "deep ties to the local and greater Idaho aeronautical community," he wrote. "These events drew attendees to the airport from other communities, several of whom flew in to attend the memorials, promoting awareness of the airport and its facilities."

All of the events were held in privately leased hangars on ground leased from the airport, not in public areas of the airport, Isaacs wrote.

"To be clear, the airport did not host these events, it only assigned employees to ensure compliance with safety and security protocols," he wrote.

Every gathering adhered to existing TSA protocols for the Lewiston airport or plans approved by TSA prior to the gatherings, Isaacs wrote.

At all of the events, for example, all participants were monitored and the only vehicles allowed to be in the airport's secured area were those belonging to caterers or people with difficulty walking, he wrote.

"The airport works tirelessly to ensure ... security and safety at the airport," Isaacs wrote.

"In each of the alleged instances, the airport complied with its ( TSA requirements)," he wrote. "The airport strives for continuous improvement in its compliance efforts and welcomes input on how it can improve."

Williams can be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.

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