Naples Airport Authority (NAA) officials have appealed the FAA’s ruling, announced in early March, against the Florida airport’s ban on Stage 2 aircraft operations. With the FAA action, Naples Airport is now restricted from receiving federal funding and from collecting airline passenger facility charges, though NAA executive director Ted Soliday said he believed the funding could be reinstated once the appeal is filed. The airport
authority had until late March to decide whether it would appeal, but a board member said it would prefer to bring the case directly to a federal court.
FAA director of airport safety and standards David Bennett, who signed the FAA ruling, said the city had failed to demonstrate that it faced liability from operations by Stage 2 aircraft, and that it had also failed to consider all reasonable alternatives to the ban. The FAA decision maintained, in part, “These and other positions argued by the Naples Airport Authority would have potential adverse effects on the National Airspace System that have not been seriously considered, much less studied in detail, and have not been raised in any forum in which all affected members of the aviation community could comment.”
The back-and-forth battle over the locally instituted Stage 2 ban goes back at least to 2000, when the city conducted noise studies as part of an FAR Part 161 process. The FAA and industry groups maintain the city’s studies were flawed, based in part on their using 60 decibels as the noise threshold rather than the FAA’s national standard measurement of 65 decibels. GAMA, NBAA and other aviation interests filed a lawsuit against the ban, but a federal district judge threw the suit out of court in late 2001. The city began enforcing the ban last spring.
Seeing little chance of changing the FAA’s stance, the city hopes to bypass the FAA appeals process and bring the case to federal appellate court as soon as possible. NAA member Richard Cobb said, “We see this in an entirely different way from the FAA. We believe we followed the law in instituting this ban.”
GAMA, NATA and NBAA all applauded the FAA’s ruling as an important stance against local control of airport operations. NBAA president Jack Olcott said, “This is a landmark determination for business aviation. The FAA’s determination upholds the integrity of the 65-decibel noise contour and the fundamental concept that federal aviation grant assurances cannot be ignored. It also reaffirms the importance of the congressionally mandated Part 161 process.”
GAMA president Ed Bolen agreed, cheering the FAA’s posture and adding, “The FAA’s ruling reinforces the federal interest that is inherent in a national air transportation system, particularly when that system is funded with federal tax dollars. The Naples Airport [Authority] exceeded its authority by trying to ban certain types of aircraft from part of our national airport system.”
NATA president James Coyne said, “The Part 161 process is an important tool for the mitigation of aircraft noise. Unfortunately, the NAA is attempting to use this process to discriminate unfairly against a certain class of users. The FAA has unmistakably stated that what the NAA has done does not comply with this process.”