Inside the Fence

July 12, 2005
Reopening of Reagan National (DCA) to general aviation, local control of airports versus federal oversight, and the EPA and secondary containment for refuelers.

On the need for measured approaches, in an industry which by its very nature demands them...

NATA president Jim Coyne is as much as anyone responsible for the reopening of Reagan National (DCA) to general aviation, if for no other reason than his tenacity on the issue. That said, he too was a bit surprised at the severity of the guidelines recently announced, although he expresses optimism that time will smooth out the rough spots. The DHS/TSA announcement reads, "DHS Implements Stringent Security Plan" for opening DCA to GA.

If not stringent, then at best complex. A few of the complexities...

  • A law enforcement officer must be on board;

  • Under Orange or Red threat levels, all GA operations cease; and

  • Incoming GA aircraft must be arriving from one of 14 "gateway" airports, where final screening will occur prior to departing for DCA.

Word is, officials at Signature Flight Support - the FBO at DCA - aren't expecting a flurry of GA activity following implementation of the procedures, which occurs 90 days after the final rule comes out.

* * *

Two recent court decisions may, in time, have a very significant impact on airports. In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Naples (FL) Airport Authority in its bid to ban all Stage 2 aircraft following an extensive Part 161 study. FAA says it will not appeal the ruling, and Naples again is eligible for federal funding.

Local control of airports versus federal oversight was a hot issue gaining serious momentum prior to 9/11. Expect a resurgence.

Also in June, the U.S. Supreme Court (Kelo v. City of New London) vastly expanded a community's ability to broaden the scope under which it can seize property via eminent domain. What was once a public-use only approach is now expanded to the private sector under the auspices of economic development, etc.

Overall, it would seem airports stand to benefit from the ruling. But there is that basic tenet of the U.S. Constitution that protects an individual's property rights. Thomas Jefferson's statue at his D.C. Memorial stands a bit shorter today.

* * *

Finally, on the issue of EPA and secondary containment for refuelers, NATA's Coyne is "very optimistic" that legislative relief is forthcoming, though what happens in the interim remains a question. With airport groups focused almost exclusively on security and funding, NATA has taken up the charge on this.

Thanks for reading.