2017 Herman C. Bliss Airports Partnership Award
LAWA and OIAA Awarded for ONT Transition
LAWA and the OIAA were announced by the FAA’s Western-Pacific Region as the winners of the 2017 Herman C. Bliss Airports Partnership Award this week. This recognition must entail something special for the Airports Division has been the forward battalion in the Santa Monica 30 Years War. In its most essential terms, the Los Angeles World Airport gave the Ontario International Airport back to the San Bernardino County authority. After fighting the City of Santa Monica over its efforts to close SMO and seeing Headquarters concede that battle, the Western Pacific Region is giving an award to the transfer of an airport; what’s up?
In the late 1960’s Ontario recognized that it might not have the acumen needed to attract scheduled service to its underutilized facility. So, it signed a joint powers agreement with Los Angeles transferring control of Ontario International Airport to LAWA to create a regional airports system. The theory was that it was in the best interest of the LA Basin to move some of the flights from congested LAX to ONT, which is proximate to a passenger base who would prefer the easier access to this second major airport.
The examples of other metropolitan areas (NYC-LGA/EWR/JFK; WAS-DCA/IAD/BWI; and others) indicated that such shared responsibility would work.
What worked in those communities failed in LA.
In 2010, the city of Ontario, with the support of the Southern California Association of Governments, criticized and questioned LAWA’s operation of the airport. After 5 years of negotiations and litigation, an agreement was reached; Ontario is obligated to reimburse LAWA for “its investments in the facility”, as well as to protect the jobs of ONT’s 182 employees. The transfer was completed on November 1, 2016 from Los Angeles World Airports to the Ontario International Airport Authority.
The 2017 Herman C. Bliss Airports Partnership Award describes the basis of the honor: “This award is granted in recognition of the exemplary partnership of these agencies working together with the Federal Aviation Administration in accomplishing the transfer of the Ontario International Airport from the City of Los Angeles to the newly-formed Airport Authority.”
[Mr. Bliss was the Manager of the Western-Pacific Region for many years.]
The award was accompanied by a number of plaudits:
- “It truly took a partnership to complete this transfer, requiring tremendous cooperation, teamwork and collaboration,” said Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners President Sean Burton. “By working together, we took what had become a contentious issue and turned it into a positive for both Ontario International Airport and LAWA. I am happy know that the FAA recognizes the importance of this work.”
- “The FAA was consulted and the Administration remained actively involved in every aspect of the transition. We are thankful for the support and guidance we received from the FAA at each step. We sincerely appreciate the recognition of the efforts of all involved in this significant endeavor; even to be considered for this award is a tremendous honor,” said President of the OIAA Board of Commissioners Alan Wapner.
- “To accomplish this successful transfer required a team comprised of staff from nearly every department at LAWA,” said LAWA Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint. “I am especially appreciative of Airport Manager Tim Ihle, whose hard work and leadership helped guide the smooth transition with the OIAA on behalf of LAWA.”
- “That same sentiment was echoed by OIAA Chief Executive Officer Kelly Fredericks. ’To my knowledge, this is the first time a transfer of this type and scope has ever been attempted. Throughout the process, everyone involved worked toward a common goal in a manner which kept the focus on the ability to take care of our shared passengers, airlines, concessionaires, vendors and suppliers,’ Fredericks said. ‘I am especially pleased that we were together able to craft a unique mechanism which recognized the value of those LAWA employees working at ONT and which offered them a variety of options for their next steps, either with the OIAA, with LAWA or with the City of Los Angeles.’
At the end of these transfers, a perfectly good airport (ONT), will be available for aviation.