FAA probing legality of Naples ban

 - May 23, 2008, 6:12 AM

Both NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) are supporting the FAA’s formal investigation into possible violations of federal law by the city of Naples, Fla., and the Naples Airport Authority (NAA).

The FAA investigation will determine whether the city’s ban on Stage 2 jets is preempted by federal law, is consistent with the city’s statutory and contractual obligations to make its airport available for public use and whether it is consistent with statutory and contractual prohibitions against granting or permitting exclusive rights at the airport to conduct aeronautical activities.

“The FAA’s decision to promptly open an official investigation regarding the Naples jet ban confirms those regulations warrant careful federal review,” said GAMA president Ed Bolen. “We are confident that after a thorough investigation, the FAA will find the Naples jet ban is discriminatory and contrary to national noise agreements and policies.”

NBAA filed a lawsuit against the NAA in late December last year–and was joined by GAMA–over its plan to ban Stage 2 aircraft at Naples Municipal Airport (APN) at the beginning of this year. The NBAA/GAMA lawsuit did not directly address the legality of the Stage 2 restriction; it argued that the methods used by the authority to support the ban violated two clauses in the U.S. Constitution. But a U.S. District Court judge threw out the lawsuit in August.

Although NBAA and GAMA chose not to appeal the decision that the Naples jet ban did not violate the Constitution, the two associations vowed to continue fighting it on policy and regulatory grounds.

NBAA president Jack Olcott said the FAA’s administrative proceeding is consistent with the FAA’s position throughout the dispute. “We filed suit in federal court because the FAA was not able to take this action before the end of last year, and we urged the court to stay the proposed ban until the FAA reached a decision,” Olcott said.

At the behest of the FAA, Naples has postponed enforcement at least until March while the FAA reviews what it perceived to be irregularities in the process leading up to the ban. If the FAA finds that the ban violates the assurances in federal grant agreements, it may terminate federal funding for the airport.