Airport Auction Alarms Authorities

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Grand Lake Regional Airport in Afton, Okla., could go to the highest bidder (and an unknown fate) in August even though the FAA has invested more than $1.3 million in improvements there. When airports accept federal money, they make a deal to keep the facility open to the public. But the public body that owns the airport, the Monkey Island Development Authority, couldn't pay $99,000 in legal fees it was ordered to pay from previous litigation and the U.S. Marshal's office was ordered to put the whole thing on the block. AOPA is at once amazed and alarmed by the situation. "AOPA has never seen the case where a grant obligated, publicly owned airport is ordered to be sold to fulfill an award of legal fees without any legal recognition that there are financial and contractual obligations owed by the airport," AOPA spokesman Bill Dunn said. Grand Lake is among 3,300 airports in the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NSPIAS), which is designed to ensure comprehensive availability of facilities throughout the country. When the operating authority took FAA improvement money, it agreed to keep the airport open and accessible to the public. AOPA has filed a "friend of the court" motion in the case and the FAA has also filed a motion, through the Department of Justice, to stop the sale.