But FAA Says City Can’t Close The Facility Without Heavy Penalties
Members of the Banning, CA city council held a workshop last month in which they discussed the possibility of closing Banning Municipal Airport (KBNG) and developing the 186 acres around the field into a logistics center. But the FAA says the city would face major financial and legal burdens should they try to do so.
The airport sits near rail and highway assets in the community just west of Palm Springs, and Bill Manis, director of economic development for Banning, said that the land could become a major logistics hub if the airport was not a municipal facility. Manis told the council at a workshop that the area would be better used for manufacturing and industrial purposes, and that it sees limited use as a general aviation airport.
The Record-Gazette community newspaper reports that the city staff indicated that it could be used for freight flights, but it is not currently large enough to handle commercial airplanes. Expanding the airport would require land that the city does not control.
FAA Airports District Officer David Cushing told the council that when they purchased the land for the airport in 1983, they promised to run the airport and keep it maintained. The city would be required to repay at least $2.5 million in federal grants, as well as appropriate additional money for the FAA to direct air traffic to other airports. He added that the city would have to pay back an additional $5.5 million in land grants or build another airport. “That’s federal law that applies to all airports, not just yours,” he said.
Councilman Larry Peterson said that the airport is vital for public safety in times of forest fires when it becomes a hub for fire personnel, helicopters and other firefighting equipment.
Cushing said it would take a minimum of 10 years for the city to close the airport.