Residents Urge Defiance Of FAA Over Runway

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Some people in Florida’s Martin County (not many of them pilots, we’d wager) say county commissioners should ignore the FAA and close 460 feet of runway at Witham Field without the agency’s approval. "Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead," local resident Jon Chicky is quoted by the Palm Beach Post as saying during a meeting of Martin County's airport noise advisory committee. "Let's get a striper out there and stripe that thing off and see what happens. I think they are a paper tiger." The county asked the FAA last year if it could eliminate the 460 feet of runway to ease noise and pollution concerns but the FAA rejected the plan, citing potential problems for pilots and airport businesses. The county appears to be fully aware of the FAA’s power and jurisdiction in this issue but at least one commissioner appears ready to test the agency’s mettle. "I'm tired of taking all this," panel member Bill Frondorf said. "Everybody always bows to the FAA." And that’s with good reason, reminded commissioner Susan Heard. Not only does the FAA have the right to prevent any closure of the runway, it could fine the county for trying to do so because striping off the asphalt would be a violation of federal law. Heard, who has met with FAA officials repeatedly to discuss the issue, has no doubt the so-called “paper tiger” would pounce. "We can make a rogue decision, and there would be consequences when we do," Heard said. The county will make a decision on how to proceed later this year and talks will continue with the FAA, which has reportedly told commissioners it’s anxious to come to an amicable agreement.