Palm Beach County has drafted a resolution seeking relief from temporary flight restrictions that impact the Lantana Airport during President Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach.
The resolution, up for discussion when county commissioners meet on Tuesday, states that: “The frequent imposition of TFRs have resulted in, and will continue to result in, significant losses to the aviation businesses operating at the Lantana Airport.”
Temporary flight restrictions during Trump’s visits have impacted all airports in the county, but they have been particularly costly for the Lantana Airport, located six miles south of West Palm Beach.
A county report in February noted that the airport lost $30,000 in business during one of Trump’s visits.
The county’s resolution directs County Administrator Verdenia Baker or her designee to work with the county’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way for the Lantana airport to continue operations during Trump’s visits.
The 44-year ban on jets at Lantana’s airport is over. The Federal Aviation Administration wrote Palm Beach County this month to say small jets now can land at the airport, though they’re limited to one of its three runways.
The agency “has concluded that permitting jet aircraft operations” on the one runway “will not affect safety or efficiency at LNA (Lantana) or surrounding airports,” FAA airport compliance specialist Deandra Brooks said in a March 17 letter to the lawyer for 76-year-old retired Eastern Airlines pilot Errol Forman of Hypoluxo.
Lantana, just 7 air miles from Palm Beach International Airport and officially named Palm Beach County Park Airport, is the subject of a 1973 agreement in which the FAA gave the county authority to ban jets. It’s the only one in Florida that formally forbids jets.
Forman had protested in April 2016 to the feds, arguing the rule is archaic and was instituted when small jets were far noisier than they are now.
“It looks like the FAA made a reasonable decision,” Forman said Monday.
With President Donald Trumplikely to return to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for a third consecutive weekend, a state legislator has asked Gov. Rick Scott, who calls himself a long time friend Trump to “intercede any way u can” with the president in hopes of getting the Secret Service to tweak flight restrictions local aviation firms say might be running them out of business.
The Lantana airport is effectively shut down by the Secret Service during Trump’s visits to Palm Beach.
“While the safety of our President is the first and foremost concern of all citizens, I am hopeful that you will recognize the value and importance of maintaining jobs and the economic engine that helps fuel Palm Beach County, which in turn helps our entire state,” Rep. Lori Berman,. D-Lake Worth, whose district includes the Lantana Airport, wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. Her office hand-delivered it to Gov. Scott’s office in Tallahassee.
“Without the consideration of a slightly loosened TFR, our community will continue to feel these adverse effects on our local economy,” Berman wrote. “The potential loss of quality jobs to our area is too great to ignore.”
“TFRs” are temporary flight restrictions.
The Palm Beach Post has asked Scott’s office at least twice in recent weeks if he’ll intervene with Trump, but the office has provided responses unrelated to the question.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner, a Democrat whose district includes the airport, wrote his own letter Wednesday to the Secret Service, listing some of the proposed tweaks, which include a “corridor” allowing planes to come and go to the west and southwest, a plan they believe would not threaten the president’s security.
“The security TFR procedure presently in place will most certainly close the closure of several small businesses” at the airport, Kerner wrote, “and affect the livelihood and lives of thousands of Americans.”
Berman and Kerner agreed to draft their letter during a meeting Monday at the airport, organized by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, to talk to anxious businesses.
The businesses say Trump’s past two weekend stays have cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and their customers, worried about continued visits, already have fled to other airports. One business, the maintenance firm Palm Beach Aircraft Services, says it could lose at least $2 million a year in gross revenue.
Jonathan Miller, part-owner of the “fixed base” operator at the airport, said Thursday businesses estimated $30,000 in losses the first two visits and project $45,000 in losses during the upcoming long Presidents Day weekend..
Presidential visits to Palm Beach County are not unusual, with former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all making multiple visits for fundraisers, golf outings and campaign appearances. But those visits did not involve extended, and frequent, stays, as is the case with Trump.
Businesses at the Lantana airport had a message for Lois Frankel to take to President Donald Trump: you’re putting us out of business.
At a meeting Monday at the airport, about two dozen people who own or operate businesses there told U.S. Rep. Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, that two straight weekend of stays by the president at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago compound have cost them thousands of dollars, and customers worried about continued visits already have fled to other airports.
And a collective groan went up when Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly said he’d heard — unconfirmed — what most have suspected for a while; that Trump will take advantage of the long President’s Day weekend and make it a third straight weekend.
The business people told Frankel, and she said so as well, that they understand the need to protect the president while he’s here. Pelly said he and the businesses, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, have suggested tweaks to the temporary flight restrictions which would let planes come and go to the west and southwest, letting them operate while keeping Trump safe. So far, the Secret Service hasn’t budged, saying it wanted to see how the first visit or two went before making any changes.
Frankel asked the businesses, as well as Pelly and Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner — whose district includes the airport — to assemble a package she could take to the Secret Service. She said she’ll also reach out to the White House to ask that it lobby the Secret Service to make accommodations for the airport, listed as the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the nation.
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, whose legislative district includes the airport, said she’ll craft a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking if he also can call on Trump, a longtime friend, to lobby the Secret Service. The Palm Beach Post posed that question to Scott last week but he did not answer it.
Business have reported some $250,000 in losses — with several not yet reporting — just from the president’s first visit last weekend. With Trump set to return again today for a weekend that includes talks with the prime minister of Japan, some firms have said repeated Trump visits could run them out of business.
Airport officials have stressed it is the Secret Service, not Trump, which imposed the restrictions. They all acknowledged the need to protect the president and said they recognize the Secret Service can’t afford to be 95 percent right. But they’ve said publicly, and in correspondence with both the Secret Service and the White House, that they hope the agency will find ways to both protect Trump and avoid harming businesses. Officials also have called on Trump himself to lobby the Secret Service.
Also invited: private aircraft owner Kelly Gottlieb; Florida Aero Paint manager Chris Cura; Palm Beach Helicopters owner Dan Crowe; Palm Beach Flight Training owner Marian Smith; Skywords Advertising owner Jorge Gonzalez; a representative of Sarasota Avionics; private aircraft owner Phil Valente; and Palm Beach Aircraft Services owner Dave Johnson, who also chairs the airport’s advisory board and is local representative to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents small plane owners nationwide.
Frankel’s scheduled to talk to reporters following the meeting.
The first visit by new President Donald Trump cost aviation-related businesses at Lantana Airport an estimated $50,000 this past weekend alone, and with Trump reportedly making another visit next weekend, a flight school that’s the airport’s biggest tenant already is looking to leave Palm Beach County, an airport manager said this week.
It’s not just this past weekend; “the question is ‘how many of those 3-day periods do you have?”” Jonathan Miller, CEO of Stellar Aviation, said late Monday.
By edict of the U.S. Secret Service, any time the president is at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, a series of flight restrictions are put in place. They’re much stronger than those in effect when Trump visited while president-elect, and effectively shut down the Lantana airport.
County Airport’s chief Bruce Pelly said late Monday that, with Air Force One having gone wheels up just hours earlier, it was too early to get a handle on the impact of the flight restrictions.
Bruce Pelly did say that he’s had no reports that any aircraft violated the concentric 1-mile, 10-mile and 30-mile restriction zones around what Trump has called his “winter White House.”
Pelly said he’s “still trying to get a head count” on flights that came through the area after getting security clearances at “gateway airports.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to rule on whether retired commercial pilot Errol Forman can land his jet at the Lantana Airport. But an interested party has weighed in. The Atlantis City Council, at its Dec. 14 meeting, voted 5-0 to support the 43-year-old embargo,
The town, which is adjacent to the airport, said in its resolution that many people and businesses relied on the ban when they moved there, and the city “believes that it is in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of its residents and businesses” to keep the moratorium in place.
The FAA said in December that Forman’s complaint has merit and the ban “may be unjustly discriminatory and not consistent with the county’s federal obligations.” Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly then wrote to county commissioners that the restriction still might be enforceable for reasons of “airspace safety and/or efficiency.”
Forman has told The Palm Beach Post it’s the county that’s infringing on his right to fly at an airport that’s paid for with federal money and open to the public.
Lantana, just 7 air miles from Palm Beach International Airport and officially named Palm Beach County Park Airport, is the subject of a 1973 agreement in which the Federal Aviation Administration gave the county authority to ban jets. It’s the only one in Florida that formally forbids jets.
Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly wrote commissioners Monday that the restriction still might be enforceable “for airspace safety and/or efficiency.”
The FAA Southern Region’s airports division in Atlanta, after looking at the issue for eight months, wrote Dec. 6 to say it will conduct an additional study before making any final ruling on the discrimination complaint by the 76-year-old retired Eastern Airlines pilot.
Lantana is the subject of a 1973 agreement in which the FAA gave the county authority to ban jets. Forman told The Palm Beach Post in late June it’s the county that’s infringing on his right to fly at an airport that’s paid for with federal money and open to the public.