Lantana airport boss: Continued Trump visits could ‘kill this airport’


The total in estimated lost commerce from President Donald Trump’s first weekend visit to Palm Beach is up to nearly a quarter million dollars, according to a county report.

Tops on the list: $217,000 in lost gross revenue by a “fixed base operator” at Palm Beach International Airport.

On top of that, small plane traffic at PBIA dropped by 30 to 40 percent during the weekend because of harsh flight restrictions, says the report, sent to Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday evening.

The Lantana airport Monday had already reported losing $30,000 this past weekend.

With Trump now planning to come right back this weekend for talks with the prime minister of Japan, the head of the operation at Lantana — which has been listed as the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the nation — has told the county he and his tenants could lose $1 million just in the first year and that continued visits by Trump could “kill this airport.”

By edict of the U.S. Secret Service, any time the president is at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, a package of flight restrictions is in place. They effectively shut down the Lantana airport and impose strict limits at other Palm Beach County airports that include requiring small plane pilots be cleared by authorities at other airports before they fly in.

Tuesday night’s memo by Laura Beebe, the deputy director of airport business affairs for the county’s Department of Airports, stressed she was reporting only numbers provided to her by the businesses themselves.

Referring to the drop in small plane traffic at PBIA, Beebe said that “we are hopeful that the general aviation community will come to realize that the process is not overly cumbersome and resume their normal operations at PBIA during TFR (temporary flight restriction) events.”

Beebe also said the president’s visit had no significant impact on commercial air traffic.

Highlights of Beebe’s summary:

PBIA:

One of the airport’s “fixed base operators” — the memo did not say which one — reported it lost $200,000 in gross fuel sales, $15,000 in lost rental fees and another $2,000 in landing fees and other revenue. Beebe said she hadn’t heard yet from the other FBOs.

Lantana :

Stellar Aviation — the FBO and the landlord for several aviation firms at the airport — said it directly lost $7,250 in services and fuel sales.

A sightseeing business — the airport did not identify it — said it lost $6,000 when it had to cancel 19 pre-reserved tours and turn away another 12 walk-ins. And no tours meant it didn’t buy about 100 gallons of fuel from Stellar.

Palm Beach Flight Training, the airport’s largest tenant, said 14 aircraft and 19 flight instructors were idled. It told the county its lost $14,000 when it ate 2½ hours of canceled training flights and that meant it didn’t buy $3,500 in fuel from Stellar. That school has said it’s already contemplating moving out, something the airport has said will cost it about $250,000 a year in rent.

Stellar has told the county AS Services, a five-aircraft operation that’s the airport’s second largest flight school, moved out of the airport for the weekend, and that a helicopter school the airport identified in a separate memo as Rescium International helicopter flight school has given notice it will pull out for good at the end of the month. The airport has said that’s a $440,000-a-year contract.

North County:

Ten small aircraft moved from Lantana and another four from PBIA because of the flight restrictions. Fuel sales that weekend were half of normal but jet fuel was 60 percent above normal because of the jets that had repositioned.

Pahokee:

Five planes moved from Lantana and operations were generally busier.

In a separate email sent Tuesday morning to the county Department of Airports, Jonathan Miller, CEO of Lantana’s Stellar Aviation, also said five private plane owners have canceled their “tie down” parking contracts.

“We are not large businesses. We are small businesses. Even these short-term losses have a significant impact to us,” Miller said.

“Continued and repetitive TFRs will cause many more operators to flee the airport, and the long-term damages will literally kill this airport,” Miller said. “The losses can easily be forecast to exceed over $1 million in the first 12 months, given the likelihood of the future visits and TFRs. Therefore, we must find a solution that will allow LNA to operate while maintaining the security of the president.”

At a Jan. 24 workshop, Palm Beach County commissioners voted 6-0 to have county staff formally ask the federal government to soften its restrictions and to have county people in Washington lobby for assistance as well.

It also is lobbying the Secret Service to allow an escape corridor west that will allow the aviation businesses to operate over the Glades. That agency has said it’s too early to tell after that first weekend how, if at all, it might tweak its restrictions.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, whose district includes the airport, also has talked to the Secret Service but said Tuesday it doesn’t appear willing to budge much. Frankel said she understood the agency’s top priority is protecting the president, but called the impact on airport businesses “terrible.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

‘Trump Train to Trash Fire Mountain’ — riffs from a GOP strategist
‘Trump Train to Trash Fire Mountain’ — riffs from a GOP strategist

As the Republican field running for governor grows, a top GOP strategist offered some advice Wednesday to candidates seeking to follow term-limited Gov. Rick Scott. “Just don’t be Trump’s mini-me, a simple rule,” Rick Wilson told the Capital Tiger Bay Club in a luncheon speech. RELATED: President Trump headlines in The Palm...
Fire fight: Unions already taking sides in Republican governor primary
Fire fight: Unions already taking sides in Republican governor primary

Adam Putnam today with firefighters in Palm Beach County (left); Jack Latvala Wednesday with firefighters in Hialeah. Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Republican candidate for governor  Adam Putnam, who will attend tonight’s Palm Beach County GOP Lobsterfest, was in Palm Springs this morning to collect the endorsement ...
Palm Beach Gardens man Ben Carson on Charlottesville, Trump and race
Palm Beach Gardens man Ben Carson on Charlottesville, Trump and race

Palm Beach Gardens resident Ben Carson announcing his support for Donald Trump’s presidential bid at Mar-a-Lago in March 2016. (Meghan McCarthy / Palm Beach Daily News) Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the Palm Beach Gardens resident who is the only black member of President Donald Trump&lsquo...
Zuckerberg vows to remove violent threats from Facebook 
Zuckerberg vows to remove violent threats from Facebook 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg took to his social network Wednesday to condemn white supremacists and pledged to remove violent threats and posts celebrating hate crimes.   "The last few days have been hard to process," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday evening, days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville...
Trump’s lack of discipline leaves new chief of staff frustrated and dismayed
Trump’s lack of discipline leaves new chief of staff frustrated and dismayed

As the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly routes all calls to and from President Donald Trump through the White House switchboard, where he can sign off on them. He stanches the flow of information reaching the president's desk. And he requires that all staff members — including Trump's relatives — go through him to reach the president...
More Stories