Submitted by Susan Hardee Steger

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wilkes
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wilkes

A “Complaint Review Letter” from Deandra Brooks, Compliance Specialist for the FAA’s Southern Region was delivered to Brian Echard of 8 Flags Aviation.  As previously reported in “City of Fernandina Beach – Another airport lawsuit looms,”  8 Flags Aviation and the City have differences over establishing a second fixed base operation (FBO) at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport.”

The summary of the FAA’s  20 page letter written in response to 8 Flags Aviation’s complaint is printed below.  If any of our readers wish to receive the full copy, simply email susan@fernandinaobserver.com

Summary

“We are troubled by the application review process conducted by the City.  We believe it may evidence a lack of understanding with regard to the City’s federal obligations, as well as its own published procedures regarding the handling of applications to establish commercial aeronautical activities at the Airport.  As noted, these shortcomings alone do not violate the City’s federal grant obligations.

8 Flags Aviation has shown that it adhered to most of the requirements contained in the City’s Minimum Standards when it submitted its application to establish an FBO at the Airport.  The Southern Region’s conclusion hinges largely on the one item included in Eight Flag Aviation’s  proposal or in the documentation it submitted to the FAA – a layout, drawn to scale, of the size, configuration, and location of 8 Flags Aviation’s proposed leasehold.  We simply cannot definitively conclude that 8 Flags Aviation demonstrated the ability to meet the Airport’s Minimum Standards, nor can we definitively conclude that the City’s reasons for denying 8 Flags Aviation the leasehold it seeks were unreasonable.

We are concerned about apparent inconsistencies in the evolution of both parties’ positions.  The documentation submitted by 8 Flags Aviation in support of it FBO proposal does not fully match some of the descriptions it provide in the Complaint.  For example, 8 Flags Aviation’s Reply references a management use contract for a ramp and a 10,250 square foot facility identified as Hanger B.  But these items are not clearly identified in the documentation which was submitted to the City.  Additionally the City’s reason for denying 8 Flags Aviation its preferred leasehold have evolved from a stated desire to locate all future growth on the east side of the Airport to it believe that the north side is not suitable for additional FBO activities given its size, attributes, and the location of Airport infrastructure which, it argues, may limit the overall utility of the land.

The FAA does not participate, as a third party or as an advocate for a single party, in the negotiations of leases or any other agreements between aeronautical tenants and airport sponsors.  The role of the FAA, in this case, is to enforce the contractual federal obligation that the airport sponsor accepts when it received federal financial assistance or the transfer of federal property.

In light of our concerns and role in ths matter, the FAA’s Southern Region strongly encourages the parties to re-start this process.   It is our expectation that 8 Flags Aviation will submit an application, per the Minimum Standards, that thoroughly reflects its proposal and definitively established how it will meet all of the requirements for FBO’s.

We also expect the City to follow its Minimum Standards in its review of such a proposal.  This means that any decision to reject 8 Flags Aviation’s proposal or to refer 8 Flags Aviation to another location on the Airport would be based on, and would only be made after the City has Complied with, Section 2.04 of the Minimum Standards.”

Section 2.04 of the Minimum Standards, Action on Application for Commercial Aeronautical Operations, reads:

With a properly submitted application to the Airport Manager, an agreement or lease will then be developed between the entity and the City.  Both documents are also presented to the Airport Advisory Commission for its review.  The Airport Advisory Commission will develop a recommendation and forward to the City Commission for its final action. (Section 2.04 inserted by the Fernandina Observer for clarity.)

“Based on our informal review, the FAA’s Southern Region finds this matter warrants no further FAA action.  This preliminary determination is not a final agency decision subject to judicial review.”

August 6, 2013 2:35 p.m.

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