A copy of a letter has been sent to President Barack Obama as well as to other national and state political authorities requesting that the St. Clair Regional Airport be removed from the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems and the Missouri State Airport System Plan.
Approval to send the letter was granted to the city’s administration by the board of aldermen earlier this month.
“It’s the reasonable and logical next step in the (closure) process,” City Administrator Rick Childers said.
The letter actually is written to Jim Johnson, manager of the Airports Division of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Central Regional Office. Copies were sent to Obama as well as to U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Sam Graves, State Rep. Dave Hinson and to several other FAA and Missouri Department of Transportation officials.
“The city of St. Clair has actively pursued the closure of St. Clair Regional Airport for nearly five years and will continue to pursue closure until said facility is no longer in existence,” the letter’s first sentence states.
St. Clair needs approval to close the facility located on the north side of town because it obtained and used grants, as late as 2006, to make improvements. Officials want to use the 80-acre parcel for much-needed retail development along the Interstate 44 corridor.
“Because the airport will be closed and because the city has no interest at any level in seeking or accepting grant funds from the FAA or from the Aviation Section of the Missouri Department of Transportation, we recommend and request that St. Clair Regional Airport be removed from the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, thus freeing additional funds for more appropriate use,” the letter reads. “By copy of this letter, we are also recommending that the Missouri Department of Transportation remove the airport from the Missouri State Airport System Plan.”
Mayor Ron Blum stressed that the request does not mean the FAA will comply.
The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems identifies nearly 3,400 existing and proposed airports that are significant to national air transportation and thus eligible to receive federal grants under the Airport Improvement Program, its website states. It also includes estimates of the amount of AIP money needed to fund infrastructure development projects that will bring these airports up to current design standards and add capacity to congested airports.
The FAA is required to provide Congress with a five-year estimate of AIP eligible development every two years. City Administrator Rick Childers said he believes the latest update is being worked on by FAA officials.
The NPIAS contains all commercial service airports, all reliever airports, and selected general aviation airports. Missouri’s listing basically is the same thing for state facilities.
City officials have maintained throughout their closure process request in discussions with the FAA that it will provide payment in full of the unamortized portion of any active grants as well as provide payment in full of the appraised fair market value of the land containing the facility. That statement was included in the letter.
“We recognize that airport funding nationwide has continually fallen short of justified needs,” Blum’s letter continues. “As the FAA initiates the second phase of general aviation airport study and continues to address a strategic plan for this segment of the airport industry, we are certain that grant funds anticipated for allocation to the St. Clair Regional Airport could be better used to assist other airports’ development projects.”
The letter concludes by noting that the airport “now bases a total of four aircraft, all single-engine recreational planes, and we anticipate that this number will continue to decrease.”
Earlier this month, the FAA granted itself a seventh extension to rule on a complaint filed by one of those hangar tenants, Jim DeVries of Pacific.
City officials received the notification earlier this month after the FAA’s sixth deadline came and went with no word on March 3.
The latest extension, ordered by Randall S. Fiertz, FAA director of airport compliance and management analysis, is worded exactly the same as the sixth extension, which was granted in early February to March 3. The latest extension is to April 3.
The Part 16 complaint was filed by DeVries. He filed his complaint in the spring of 2012.
The complaint, officially titled a “14 C.F.R. Part 16,” was sent to Federal Aviation Administration personnel in May of that year. The complaint alleges “noncompliance by the city of St. Clair Regional Airport, the sponsor of the airport, of its obligations under federal law applicable to the operation of an airport.”
Closing the airport has been a priority of Ron Blum and his administration since he took office in 2007. According to the FAA, it won’t consider closing the airport until the Part 16 complaint is resolved.
The city and the FAA have sent correspondence back and forth regarding the airport for years. Each time a corrective measure has been requested, the city has said it has addressed and fixed the situation.
Last year, the Missouri Department of Transportation said it will not oppose closure of the airport.