Inside the Fence

Sept. 8, 2001

Inside the Fence

By John Infanger, Editorial Director

September 2001

The slow progression (inroads?) of local bodies to gain more control over airports continues. Meanwhile, another prominent aviation name gives way to the Signature moniker.
As we go to press, news comes that a U.S. District Court Judge in Ft. Myers, FL, dismissed a lawsuit brought by NBAA and GAMA against the City of Naples Airport Authority. Naples, of course, put in place a ban on smaller Stage 2 jets that were not included in the commercial airline ban of 2000. Naples had already implemented a Stage 1 ban, with FAA’s blessing.
The airport administration at Naples is in little position to argue, but could in fact be promoting, the wishes of its community — a quiet airport. They like everything quiet in Naples, even your backyard BBQ.
NBAA and GAMA, mindful of the precedent of allowing an airport to shut out "an entire class of users" in what is billed as a national transportation system, sued to stop the ban. The U.S. District Court sided with Naples.
This is precedent at a precedent-setting time.
Anyone who is not remotely up to speed on this issue should now sit in the front of the class. There is an activism in this country at present that is building, and it’s calling for more local control over everything local. And we don’t care if the feds like it or not. This is how revolutions get started.
With Naples, GAMA and NBAA are looking to FAA to step in, in pursuit of "administrative remedies." In fact, much of industry has been looking to FAA for just such clear direction. People at the agency will convince you they’re trying; yet, the direction has yet to come through. Meanwhile, there are rumblings that the answer — i.e., more federal control — may come from Capitol Hill.
It may be time to brush up those conference notes about how to get more active in the local chamber, politics, etc. It also may be time for the industry as a whole to appreciate the fact that the rules at the playground may be changing. We work with it, or it works us.
It reminds me of an airport in a land far, far away called Richards-Gebaur, a Kansas City (MO) reliever. The regional authority sought to close the airport to build a rail/truck center. In return for getting out of its grant assurances, it offered a guaranteed fund to build up the infrastructure at the surrounding GA relievers, in both Missouri and Kansas. Industry groups refused to work with K.C. and fought it, and there’s a new rail/truck center underway in Kansas City.
While even a skeptic would not doubt AOPA/Phil Boyer’s ability to turn even that circumstance around, it’s not the point. A clear direction from the federal government that a system is a system would suffice. The courts, it seems, are providing direction. Either way, the battles on the local level will persist; new ways to work with communities may be needed.

Over the years, I’ve really grown to appreciate Charlie Priester. Charlie is second-generation Priester Aviation, a name in the history of Midwestern FBOs. Signature Flight Support is buying the Palwaukee FBO, giving it a string of four FBO pearls circling Chicago. Hello, DuPage.
An ex-Marine, Charlie is a Chicago style nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy who has been consumed (he would say blessed) by aviation all his life. He was also an FBO’s FBO as the NATA chair.
We’ll miss his name on the marquee. It’s that change thing again.
Thanks for reading.