Airport mess begins to come to light


Credit where due: Three front-page stories in three days in the Whirled about the federal investigation of the Tulsa Airport Authority and the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust (TAIT). While most of the investigation is complete, it appears they are still looking into the airport's dealings with Great Plains Airlines. In particular, the feds are examining a "convoluted" deal set up to allow the TAIT to provide financial assistance Great Plains, despite the federal ban on airports subsidizing airlines. Tulsa used Air Force Plant No. 3 as collateral for a loan to Great Plains. Great Plains is now bankrupt. The TAA applied to the FAA for authorization to raise passenger fees, and it appears that this increase was intended to pay off the loan when it appeared that Great Plains might default. This would also be a violation of federal regulations.

One of the more interesting tidbits from Friday's story by Jim Myers:

Investigators are also examining what appears to be an attempt to keep the public in the dark about certain discussions.

The source said investigators believe that notice requirements of a public meeting in December 2002 were waived so there would be no advance notice of the session.

They believe that meeting was called to discuss several aspects of the financial backing for Great Plains.

Just another example of the way the Cockroach Caucus prefers to do business.

I appreciate the Whirled running these stories prominently. It's interesting that the coverage is being handled by their Washington reporter, rather than the city reporters that would ordinarily handle it.

It's also interesting to look back at the Whirled's coverage from January and February 2003, when Mayor LaFortune and Senator Inhofe first requested that the Department of Transportation's Inspector General conduct an investigation. The newspaper stories focused on critics of the call for an investigation, and suggestions that it was all about politics and sour grapes. Looks like the call for an investigation was well founded, and credit to the Mayor and the Senator for pushing ahead with it despite the potshots.

In the meantime, Tulsa does have a daily non-stop flight to and from Newark, offered by Continental Airlines, and made possible by the advent of regional jets which make it cost effective to provide service on lower-volume routes. But for frequent flights to the coasts, drive a hundred miles to the east to XNA (Northwest Arkansas Regional), see the famous Highfill Tower, and jet away non-stop to Los Angeles and New York. The difference, sad to say, is that there's heavy demand for non-stop flights from the coasts to Bentonville, thanks to Wal-Mart, but not so much for Tulsa.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 10, 2004 2:10 AM.

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