Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go To The Airport
John Hoeppner thinks he
can do it. He tells the Arizona Republic the "ground is fertile"
for a public vote to close Scottsdale Airport (AZ). Just when you
were ready to breathe a big sigh of relief after voters
overwhelmingly decided to keep Albert Whitted Airport in St.
Petersburg (FL), another battle looms on the horizon.
Hoeppner is the former leader of Quiet Skies, an anti-airport
organization that sued the FAA (unsucessfully) over the Northwest
2000 Plan. The plan rerouted commercial air traffic into and out of
Phoenix Sky Harbor. He's now lining up with another airport
opponent, Nick Luongo of Scottsdale, who says he's tired of trying
to work with the city council on aircraft noise issues and now
wants the voters to decide -- should Scottsdale Airport be forever
"If the right people get involved in this thing, then the
Scottsdale council will have something to contend with," said
But not everyone agrees. Scottsdale Councilman Bob Littlefield
says, "This is the same guy who said they'd win the lawsuit (over
Northwest 2000) too. Closing the airport is nuts. And Littlefield
points to the facts.
About 250,000 people live in Scottsdale. Of those, only 272
filed aircraft noise complaints last year. But it's not that
easy. Hoeppner says a lot of the same people involved in the
Northwest 2000 suit are circulating a petition to close the
Scottsdale Airport. The two issues are related. Luongo says noise
from aircraft wasn't a problem until the Northwest 2000 plan was
implemented. Under the plan, corporate jets have been forced to fly
lower in certain areas to accomodate the commercial traffic into
and out of Sky Harbor.
"That's a crock," says Littlefield, in an interview with the
Republic. "If we get rid of the corporate jets, he'd be complaining
about the Cessna 172s."
But Luongo goes even further. He says his life is threatened by
the corporate jets flying overhead. He lives about two miles south
of the airport. "It's just a matter of time before a plane crashes
on someone," he says. Luongo is circulating a petition with 16
reasons why the Scottsdale Airport should be shut down.
Luongo tries to make
the argument that closing the airport would stimulate the economy.
He says the surrounding business development, the Scottsdale Air
Park, could be greatly expanded to cover the 226 acres now used for
air operations. But aviation advocates say it isn't so.
Craig Morningstar is one of the founders of AZSNAP (Arizona
Scottsdale Network Air Park). He says a lot of the corporations
around the airport are there only because they can get in and out a
lot faster than if they based their aircraft at Sky Harbor. If the
airport goes, he says, then so goes the Air Park and with it,
40,000 jobs. Sure, things might be a bit quieter. Morningstar says
the economic engine of Scottsdale would sputter and die.
There's another catch: Scottsdale could lose the Air Park
altogether because of a deal made with the Seventh Day Adventist
Church 40 years ago. The church sold the airport property to
Scottsdale for $3 million back in 1963, on the condition that it be
used as an airport and the church would always have access to the
field. Break those conditions and the airport could revert back to
the church. Then, as with Albert Whitted in Florida, airport
opponents would have to deal with the state and the FAA, both of
which have contributed money to the development and maintenance of