representatives this week approved a bill (House Bill 886)
sponsored by House Speaker Terry Coleman (D-Dist. 118) to ensure
that public-use airports remain open. One of Coleman's allies, Rep.
Don Wix (D-Dist. 33), contacted AOPA early for guidance in drafting
The bill would require the sponsor of a public-use airport,
whether publicly or privately owned, to maintain the facility in a
"safe and serviceable condition to serve aeronautical users" and
take no actions that would close or render the airport unusable for
20 years from the date of the most recent financial assistance.
"This bill will give
Georgia pilots some of the strongest guarantees in the country that
they'll have places to land in the years to come," said AOPA
President Phil Boyer. "If enacted, it will make it almost
impossible for an airport sponsor to close an airport on a
Sponsors trying to close a grant-obligated airport would be
required to hold a public hearing and give 30-days' notice of the
hearing. And if, after all that, the sponsor decided to go ahead
with the closure, it could do so no sooner that 90 days after
posting the decision.
At the same time, the bill includes large financial
disincentives to close the airport, including repaying all
financial assistance. If the money was used to purchase land for
the airport, the sponsor would be required to pay the current
market value of the land or the full value of the grant, whichever
At AOPA's suggestion, the bill includes 20-year grant
obligations, similar to those required by the FAA, for any airport
accepting financial assistance from the state. Financial assistance
includes everything from money to services and equipment.
"We are very appreciative of Representatives Coleman, Channell,
Parish, and Morris for sponsoring the legislation that was passed
by the Georgia House of Representatives," said AOPA Vice President
of Regional Affairs Roger Cohen (pictured right).
"We need to make sure it now is approved by the state senate and
signed into law."