Monday, May 22, 2006
Small airports need oversight
The Whittier (CA) Daily News
NEW information backs up the need for increased county oversight of small airports where contractors run the show. At Brackett Field in La Verne, plane owners and some businesses are fed up with what they say is shoddy treatment and poor management. They’re talking with their feet, leaving the once well-respected field for other small-craft airports in the region. Even the prestigious Air Desert Pacific flight training school relocated to Chino, and Sky Doc, which performs annual physical exams for pilots took off for Diamond Bar. Runway 37, another flight school, left for Upland’s Cable Airport.
Those losses were followed up by a legal action from the Pasadena law firm of Mathews and Rager, alleging the management company kept profits instead of turning them over to the county.
The firm represents six pilots who fly out of county-owned airports.
Other customers allege the airport management company was unlawfully selling fuel.
That got the attention of the county that submitted a report to the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month.
While we understand the county was losing money managing the regional airports that cater to small planes, contracting out doesn’t absolve supervisors from oversight.
Time and time again we see supervisors turn a blind eye to operations where contractors are handed hundreds of thousands of dollars to run specific programs. More is needed than a handshake and a quick good-bye.
American Airports runs five of these small county airports including El Monte’s. Inquiry into the firm’s other operations would seem a good trouble-shooting measure.
Some complaints by Brackett tenants were rent increases of up to 25 percent, pulled leases, eviction notices and leasing hangars to other uses than aircraft. It seems as if the contractor is pushing pilots and air-related businesses out.
We’d like to see the county and FAA get to the bottom of the allegations.
Meanwhile, American Airports has been told to hold meetings with airport stakeholders to retain aviation-oriented businesses at regional airports.
Closed-door sessions have been held, but we’d like to see meetings opened up to the public. After all, this is county business.
Also, it would put to rest rumors that the county may be readying to sell off the small airports, which are in decline since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With the price of real estate in the Southland, housing could bring a better return on investment, but what does the public want done with their property?
Editor’s Note: Perhaps ‘The Whittier (CA) Daily News’ should do some more investigating before making uninformed negative remarks regarding “small airports” and their value to the community. Time and again municipalities who made the effort to study the economic impact of their community/regional airport have found that the airport brings significant business to the community. The unfortunate and flip remarks of this reporter show his lack of research and understanding.