Pilots Protest Proposed New Fees; the Charges Would Be for Using the Fernandina Airport for Business Purposes

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY HURST

FERNANDINA BEACH - Pilots are voicing opposition to a proposal to charge commercial user fees for the first time at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport.

Pilots who attended the City Commission meeting Tuesday strongly objected to the new fees proposed primarily for commercial operators, including flight instructors, mechanics and others who provide services to airport customers, such as limousine drivers and plane detailers.

Airport Manager Richard Johnson is asking commissioners to approve a $450 annual commercial aviation permit to use the airport for any business purpose. The fees will help pay for improvements at the airport instead of using city funds, he said Tuesday.

The proposal also prorates the fees, including $60 for use of the airport for any part of or a whole month.

Non-local pilots also would be charged fees. Fees cannot be charged for touch-and-go landings by out-of-town pilots or flight instructors, but private planes coming into the airport, for example ones carrying passengers who are staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island or the Amelia Island Plantation, would be charged under the proposal.

The proposal also requires commercial entities to carry worker's compensation and liability insurance.

Fees also would be charged for banner pickup, balloon and blimp mooring, and any limousine service pulling onto airport property.

The proposal also calls for storage fees, parking fees for cars or RVs left more than 30 days and aircraft tie-downs for the city-owned ramp parking area.

Johnson told commissioners Fernandina Beach's airport fees and rents generally were below what other general aviation airports in the area charge.

"Now the tenants pay nothing other than to store their plane," Johnson said. "All users of the airport should contribute to the success of the airport."

Johnson estimated the proposed fees would generate $45,000 to $60,000 in revenue in the first year.

Pilots who spoke Tuesday, however, said those new fees would hurt them.

Gordon Reilly, a flight instructor at the airport, said he doesn't charge most people for flight instruction. …

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