AOPA: Other Issues, Other Victories

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Although the user-fee issue dominated the political discussions in Palm Springs, there were some other victories being heralded in the host state of California. Earlier this year, the FAA, with some prodding from AOPA, emphatically denied a request from the city of Bakersfield that it be released from its obligations to the FAA so the airport could be closed in favor of residential and commercial development. Since federal funds were used to buy the land for the airport in the 1980s, the site must remain an airport in perpetuity, unless the FAA says so. In a 10-page denunciation of Bakersfield's rationale for closing the airport, the agency made it clear that option wasn't on the table. The Oceanside, Calif., battle wasn't as simple. Andy Cebula, AOPA's government relations expert, said pilots, with AOPA help, got directly involved in local elections. The campaign involved advertising and direct mail urging voters to support pro-airport candidates. Two were elected and that was enough to shift the power balance on the city council to preserve the airport, at least for now. In her speech to delegates on Friday, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey stressed the agency's commitment to keeping airports open. She pledged that the FAA wasn't "going to sit idly by" when local governments try to close or restrict federally funded airports. "The condos will just have to go somewhere else," she said.