FAA letter regarding Jones Riverside Airport

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Last week, on August 23, Ed Chambers of the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth sent a letter to Jeff Mulder (500 KB PDF file), head of the Tulsa Airport Authority (TAA), regarding discrimination by the TAA in the treatment of Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs) at Jones Riverside Airport, the City's general aviation facility west of the Arkansas River. The TAA manages Tulsa's two city-owned airports.

FBOs typically provide aviation fuel, repair services for aircraft and avionics, and facilities for the use of crew and passengers. AirNav lists two FBOs at Jones Riverside Airport (KRVS): Roadhouse Aviation, owned by Kent Faith, a pilot with American Airlines, and Christiansen Aviation, owned by City Councilor Bill Christiansen. (Click those links and scroll down to read comments from pilots about the two FBOs.)

The letter reminds Mulder that federally-funded airports are required to be evenhanded in their treatment of FBOs, in accordance with the airport's grant assurances. The FAA letter quotes Assurance 22c:

Each fixed-base operator at the airport shall be subject to the same rates, fees, rentals, and other charges as are uniformly applicable to all other fixed-base operators making the same or similar uses of such airport and utilizing the same or similar facilities.

The FAA is investigating a "Part 16 complaint" that Roadhouse Aviation has filed against the Tulsa Airport Authority, and the FAA's findings, after several delays, are expected in October. Like the Part 16 complaint, this letter deals with the TAA showing favoritism toward one FBO over another, but the letter addresses a separate issue.

In 2002, Roadhouse Aviation sought to lease an empty lot from the TAA for a new facility. The TAA board, prompted by new board member Ron Turner, placed a condition on Roadhouse's lease: Because the new facility was near one of several sites identified in a study as a potential future tower location, a condition was placed on Roadhouse's lease. If the FAA chose that location for a tower, Roadhouse would be required to tear down its new facility at the company's own expense, restoring the site to its undeveloped condition.

As a result of Roadhouse's lawsuit against TAA, the condition was removed from the lease, but a memorandum of understanding making the same commitment was placed in the airport's lease file. The added requirement meant added expense and delays for Roadhouse in getting the new facility financed and built.

Fast forward to April 2006. Two new hangars are being built by airport tenants, one by Christiansen Aviation, the other by Ray Booker. Both new hangars are within the required 300 foot clear area of four of the potential tower locations identified in the study. Because these two new facilities are in the same situation as the Roadhouse facility, the FAA wrote that, "they also should have the same memorandum in the airport's ground lease file that calls for their removal should the FAA decide to proceed with tower construction on this site."

But they don't. These two other tenants have not been subjected to the same conditions and agreements as Roadhouse Aviation. The letter says:

In the interest of treating all similarly situated FBOs the same, the memorandum requiring removal of facilities and restoration of the lease area at lessee's cost should the FAA opt to construct a new tower should be in all three of the lease files or in none.

We ask the airport operator to examine the lease records and respond to the allegation of unfairly treating one FBO in favor of two other FBOs by September 11, 2006.

The TAA should respond in one of two ways: (1) by saying that they have placed the same memorandum in the files of all similarly situated tenants, or (2) by saying that they have removed the memorandum from Roadhouse's file. This is a simple and straightforward situation, and the TAA should acknowledge the problem and correct it.

What the TAA should not do is what has been done so far in response to the Part 16 complaint: Have the Florida lawyer that was hired by the city send a lawyerly response filled with rationalizations and self-justifications.

What course of action the City and the TAA will take is up to Mayor Kathy Taylor. As an ex officio TAA board member, she can join with two reformers on the TAA board to fix the problem that the FAA has identified.

It's not a good sign that she nominated Ron Turner for another term on the TAA, when he seems to have been the driving force behind the policies that have put Tulsa in hot water with the Feds.

We don't need a team or a plan. We need the Mayor and the TAA to say to the Feds, "You're right, that was wrong, and we've already put things right." That attitude would serve the City well in dealing with the broader Part 16 complaint, and might help us avoid financial penalties that would hurt commercial aviation passengers who fly from Tulsa International as well as the private pilots who use Riverside.


D.Schuttler said:

Denying allegations worked well for the airport in the sound attenuation program , why wouldn't they keep denying in other allegations as well.

Bob said:

Well, the reason why Goobermint entities love to fight every little challenge to their assumed God-Like authority is because their DEFENSE is paid for with OPM: Other People's Money. OUR tax money.

So, City of Tulsa Goobermint will happily spend $100K on on high-priced Florida attorney rather than just admit that a mistake had been made, correct it, and allow some closure for the harm that they permitted to occur.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 30, 2006 8:42 PM.

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