FAA: Fix faults
The Fayette County Airport Authority's existing and future federal funding will remain in jeopardy until the authority resolves various ongoing safety concerns and deficiencies cited by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Debbie Roth, manager of the FAA's Airports Division, sent a letter dated July 26 to the Fayette County commissioners and airport authority members outlining the deficiencies and action that needs to be taken to resolve the ongoing problems at the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport.
In the letter, Roth said the FAA has repeatedly advised the airport authority of its obligation to take the necessary corrective actions but has not received a “timely acceptable response.”
“The continued unauthorized uses of airport property and the failure to collect rent, signifies potential violations of the Fayette County Airport Authority's federal obligations grant assurances,” Roth said. “Such violations could jeopardize existing and future FAA funding to support airport projects.”
John “Bud” Neckerauer, airport manager, said he has been working with authority members to resolve the deficiencies.
“We're bringing everything into compliance,” Neckerauer said. “The FAA isn't going to shut down the airport.”
Although the authority originally had 15 days to respond to the FAA concerning the deficiencies, Neckerauer said the authority has been granted a 30-day extension.
“We're taking photos that will be sent to the FAA to show them that the airport is coming into compliance with their requests,” he said. “We hope to have all of the deficiencies resolved soon.”
Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink said she is concerned about the issues because the first FAA deficiency letter was sent to authority members in July 2011.
“While the FAA continues to work with the authority, giving them more time to come into compliance, there are still open FAA safety concerns and the county's grant funding remains at risk,” she said.
Zimmerlink said she is also concerned about the conditions at the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport and recent reports of operating deficits of more than $100,000.
“The FAA deficiency letters and poor financials speak for themselves and reflect poorly on all authority members,” she said.
“The commissioners allocated money from our county budget and Marcellus shale money to the airport, and it is a county airport, so for anyone to cut the authority members slack and tell me that the county airport is none of my business is part of the problem — not the solution,” Zimmerlink added.
During recent FAA inspections, Roth said inspectors observed many uses of airport property and unacceptable storage in airport hangars and other deficiencies.
Those findings are as follows:
• Some of the hangars located on either side of the terminal building (north and south hangars) are used and occupied by non-aeronautical users. These hangars in question may be used temporarily for non-aeronautical use providing that it is compatible with the airport, and the airport sponsor collects fair market value rent.
• Other hangars currently housing aircraft on the airport also have been non-aeronautical equipment such as automobiles, an RV and other equipment stored in the hangars. The FAA strongly urged the authority to take the necessary steps to remove such items from hangars since airport hangars must not be used as an automobile garage parking space or storage.
• The WSW Holdings, Inc., hangar by Taxiway “F,” currently stores artificial turf that has no aviation-related mission. Since the lease is about to expire soon, the FAA says the authority should explore the possibility to utilize the areas for an aeronautical business having a direct aviation need.
• A parked trailer and a mailbox on concrete block is located beyond the hangar building, which sticks out into the taxiway and may be well within the protected surfaces. The FAA requested that the authority remove and relocate the trailer and mailbox to an appropriate location, since it “poses a potential safety concern and risk.”
• Anyone using Airport Road could unintentionally or intentionally drive onto the airside of the airport. There is no security gate that would stop vehicles or anyone from getting on Taxiway F and other parts of the airport. This could be a safety and security issue at the airport. The authority should attempt to secure funding for a fencing/gate project to lockout unauthorized entities from entering the airside area.
Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.