Props Seen As Occupying Valuable Space A new threat to GA airports is appearing more and more frequently, and it’s a twist on the old familiar story of residents moving in, deciding they don’t like the airport noise and turning the field into a subdivision. Instead, those same residents seem to be realizing that a GA airport can be a cash cow for their communities — but not if it’s infested with little personal aircraft and weekend flyers. The big bucks come with fuel-guzzling jets and corporate expense accounts. For flight schools, small FBOs and private pilots trying to find hangar space, the result is the same. They’re being pushed out …Montgomery Field Ousts FBO…M
Among the latest to feel the squeeze is Gibbs Air Service, a venerable FBO at Montgomery Field, a municipal airport in San Diego. The FBO is operated by Buzz Gibbs, whose father started the airfield back in 1937 (the field was later acquired by the city); it provides hangar space, a flight school, fuel and other services to hundreds of small-aircraft owners. Gibbs’s lease expires on May 31 and the city says it won’t be renewed. Officials so far haven’t revealed their plans for the FBO’s 24-acre parcel, other than to say they want to explore the options to maximize its income potential for the city (currently suffering a budget deficit), The Union-Tribune reported last week. Local pilots fear the city wants to drive them out with high prices, so they can cater to business jets instead. Over 500 small airplanes now live at the field. Pilots pay about $150 per month for a tie-down or $300 for a hangar. The airport’s future will be discussed at a city council hearing on April 13. AOPA has contacted San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy to say that Gibbs ran one of the most respected flight schools in the area. If the city is going to take over, AOPA said, it is imperative that they continue to offer flight training.
…As Rialto Goes Head-To-Head With FAA
That’s not to say that cities aren’t still threatening to shut down airports, if they think there’s profit in it. In Rialto, Calif., on the far western edge of the Los Angeles metro region, a new highway bypass is spiking property values, and the city is looking for ways for close its GA airport and redevelop the land. The FAA is crying foul, saying it has given the city almost $15 million to develop the airport and Rialto has no right to close it. The city says that the airport is no longer needed and the operations there can be moved to an airport in nearby San Bernardino, so they are not really closing the airport, just moving it (fun with semantics, 101). The FAA’s not buying that argument. “If you move something, by definition you have to close it,” FAA spokesman Donn Walker told The San Bernardino Sun. “That may not occur without our approval.” The city has “shown a blatant disregard for state and federal law,” AOPA says. “The city claims that it cannot afford to operate the airport, yet it has repeatedly rejected proposals for aviation businesses.”