The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration announced last week that it would delay the closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers until June 15. Last month, the FAA announced it would eliminate funding for these towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million budget cuts under sequestration. Glendale Municipal Airport is among the 149 towers set to close.
Richard Goldman said closing the control tower at the Glendale airport is not a problem. He said pilots throughout the country fly in and out of small municipal airports every day that do not have control towers.
Like other hangar owners at Glendale’s airport, Goldman has invested tens of thousands of dollars in not just his aircraft, but his storage unit as well. Goldman was offended by an earlier story in The Glendale Star that referred to him and other hangar owners as “hangar renters.” He said one hangar owner spent as much as $250,000 on his hangar.
Goldman said when he and others bought their hangars, the city could not afford to build the airport. He and others went out and found agents, he said, and builders leased the land, built the hangars in 1999, and sold them on a 40-year lease. He said the city has limited authority through the fee-simple, absolute process he and other hangar owners have gone through.
Because of the strict language of the leases, Goldman said the FAA is trying to get cities to issue no more than five-year leases.
“Walter Fix (Glendale Airport Administrator) is working on that,” Goldman said. “He and the city feel they can revise the lease agreements through rules and regulations to encroach upon and control what we do in our hangars.”
“(Glendale Mayor Jerry) Weiers has done nothing that I can tell ... We e-mailed (Yucca Councilmember) Sam Chavira, and he didn’t respond.” -- Richard Goldman
To further bolster the hangar owners’ case, Goldman recited the Arizona Constitution, which Goldman said states, “nothing can be written to change a contractual agreement without proper compensation. If they try to do that, we’ll sue.
“Fix is going full blast with Jamsheed Mehta (acting assistant manager and the city’s transportation director).”
As for Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, a pilot who has a hangar at the airport, Goldman said, “Weiers has done nothing that I can tell. When he left the state House, we lost the ability to e-mail. My wife called his wife, Sandy, to get Weiers' e-mail. We called his assistant, Anne, and asked for one hour to meet with him. We e-mailed (Yucca Councilmember) Sam Chavira, and he didn’t respond.”
Goldman said the hangar owners have been told by Fix that the airport control tower would close, but the airport would remain open. But, Goldman said he and others are not worried about the control tower closing.
“We don’t need an airport manager,” Goldman said.
He believes what is needed is a volunteer airport manager.
“We don’t need towers; no big deal,” he said.
He pointed to other airports around the state that operate without a control tower: Scottsdale, Deer Valley, Payson, Show Low, Goodyear, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Sedona, and Marana. Flagstaff and Prescott airports do have control towers.
“Nobody’s upset about the tower closing” Goldman said.
Back to the hangar issue, Goldman said the FAA grant assurance was something the city went into of its own volition.
“We’re not the ones in violation,” he said. “The city is in violation, not us, and it won’t stand up in court. They have to honor our contract. The only thing to end this is ratify our contract to the end of the lease. We’re not going to give up.”
At the day of his interview, Goldman said he and two other hangar owners were ticketed because they refused to let officials inspect their hangars “without warrant.” Goldman said the reasons outlined on his ticket were “failure to adhere to rules and regulations,” and “refused to allow inspections.”
Goldman said he and his group of hangar owners have a petition with 70 names signed of people unhappy with the current airport administration. The petition calls for the removal of Fix and Mehta.
“We want them gone," Goldman said. “Weiers knows state law. Ask him how he feels about the city’s rules and regulations. Tell Weiers we’ve got that petition and we want Fix and Mehta out of there.”
Weiers said last week that he is aware of the issue.
“I actually own my hangar,” Weiers said. “I understand their plight and the city’s situation. I’ve offered suggestions myself that could work. We have to figure out a way to resolve both concerns.”
He said he has concerns about the FAA funding, “but it’s about property rights out there. I’d like to see us things work out so everybody’s happy.”
Weiers said he talked with Goldman last week, and has an appointment for this week. As for Fix and Mehta, Weiers said their employment is out of his hands, and the city manager hires and fires.