All Airports are National

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

An airport may be located in a community; its presence is national.

All politics is local” is a popular political saying, most often associated with House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. (1912-1994).

“All airports is national.” Anonymous (perhaps former Rep. Donald Clausen)

Santa Monica wants to close up its airport altogether and has started evicting its tenants. San Francisco is evicting a GA tenant because it would prefer the little planes would go elsewhere. Members of Congress opine that these are local matters; so why should the FAA care:

  1. Congress authorized the FAA to carefully issue AIP grants to airports. The money for those local airport expenditures came from taxes collected across the country. In distributing those dollars to projects, the FAA must assess the grants’ return based on the proposed projects’ benefits in terms of safety, capacity and the environment. That determination may not be based on purely local impacts; the use must result in improvements to the National Airport System Plan. It is a macro, not micro analysis.
  1. The point is that airports (small, intermediate, large) constitute a system. The mobility of this asset relies on a network of facilities at which to land or depart. This is not just an economic utility statement, but the expression of safety requirements. There are instances in which the plane needs to land at a facility for repairs or fuel.
  1. The Congress and the FAA recognize that an airport is an important, yet difficult public utility. The grants pay for the requested improvements, but carry with them contractual/statutory obligations. By agreeing to accept the AIP funds, the sponsor AGREES that it must operate this “federal facility” under the terms of the grant. Those requirements reflect a national interest that every airport must comply with the duties freely taken by the sponsor.

Elected officials assert that their local rights should predominate over the national interests. “It’s our citizens which are impacted”; so our needs should prevail. Accept for the moment this micro argument, what are the consequences of such a myopic view:

  • The closure of Airport A requires the tenants and planes hangared there to move to another airport.
  • At a minimum, the “benevolence” of closing Airport A more than likely translates to the movement of those assets migrate to another airport, assuming that there are hangars or FBO space available nearby.
    • Here is a good example of the interconnectedness of a regional set of airports.

All Airports are National

    • As A rejoices upon the closure of its attractive nuisance, Community B and/or C and/or D, etc. will experience increased activity. B,C and D, which took their AIP obligations seriously and continue to meet them, may not regard the people as beneficent– NIMBY in a different context.
    • A plane on the way to another airport in A’s region may have to go further than previously for fuel or repairs. That’s not good.
    • By removing an important facility from a region forces the previous A tenants to another airport. By definition, the congestion of the B-D airports increases. That’s not good.

The Member of Congress or local elected official, claiming that their unique airport situation is unique is naïve at best. If a bill is enacted exempting Airport A from its AIP obligations or if the Member’s political clout forces the FAA to allow A to escape from its AIP obligations, the A action will set a precedent.

All Airports are NationalThe efforts, to define the uniqueness of A’s case or to create an A only language, are legally deficient. B or C or D or E, if so inclined, will follow the A path. An exception to a rule of law establishes a PRECEDENT. B or C or D may be in another region and states. The A PRECEDENT becomes a rule which will spread. The “local” effort quickly becomes a national trend. It leads to a dangerous domino effect. As the consequences of A’s “local action” spread, the impact is NATIONAL.

Clever counsel may attempt to avoid technical closure by denigrating its existing services. The airport and runways may be functional, but fuel and repairs will be provided by individuals who have no interest serving the pilots and planes. An interesting ploy, but there will be consequences beyond any liability insurance if a plane crashes with substantial damages. It sets the operator of the FBO for a policy breaking claim of intentional negligence. Aviation plaintiffs’ lawyers are a VERY aggressive group; they are particularly fond of publicized verdicts. Bankrupting a municipality would attract a NATIONAL attention and a ton of new clients.

All Airports are National

An airport may be located in a community; its presence is national.

 

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

1 Comment on "All Airports are National"

  1. The LA Times chastises Santa Monica for its insidious assault on an the local, read national, airport http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-santamonica-airport-20160921-snap-story.html

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.