You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Palm Beach County aviation head: Trump flight limits will hurt airport

Aviators who use the Lantana airport, and businesses that operate at it, will pay dearly for new President Donald Trump’s vacations at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, county commissioners heard Tuesday.

But the county’s aviation chief said the final word in this case isn’t with the county, or even the nation’s commander in chief. It’s the Secret Service. And that agency isn’t budging.

Airports Director Bruce Pelly told a county commission workshop on Tuesday he plans to press the Secret Service and the federal Transportation Security Administration for “whatever we can do to get Lantana functioning.” But, he said, “They’re telling us what can and cannot happen.”

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.

“We’re going to try to do everything we can to mitigate the impact on the aviation community,” Pelly said. “These people are paying customers.”

He said he asked the federal agencies if they’d install a temporary control tower at Lantana, which would provide more scrutiny for private planes and could ease the strict limits. Pelly said the Secret Service wasn’t keen on the idea.

The federal government said severe air traffic restrictions will be in place when Trump is at what he calls his “winter White House:” Lantana, listed as one of the nation’s 10 busiest general aviation airports, effectively will shut down. And general aviation at a dozen airports from Martin County to Fort Lauderdale, including Palm Beach International, will be heavily restricted.

In a Dec. 15 letter to Trump, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association president and CEO Mark R. Baker said six South Florida airports directly affected “account for a local economic output exceeding $1 billion, create over 8,000 jobs, and have a total payroll of $290 million.” He said the pilots understand the need for security, but asked Trump to consider the impact.

“Obviously the security of the president is a priority concern for the Secret Service and the American people,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, whose district includes the Lantana airport, said in a statement late Tuesday. “With that said, I will make appropriate inquiries to the relevant agencies as to whether there is any accommodation that can be made to local businesses without endangering the well-being of the president and his family.”

Neither the White House nor the Secret Service responded Tuesday afternoon to requests for comment.

“There’s a little bit of hysteria,” Jonathan Miller, CEO of Stellar Aviation Group, the “fixed base” operator at the Lantana airport, told county commissioners Tuesday. He said the airport employs about 400 people and hosts some 300 planes.

“It’s not just our pocketbook that’s going to suffer,” Miller said. He said he and his tenants combined pay about $850,000 in rents to the county, plus taxes and fuel surcharges.

Miller noted numerous general aviation airports are near Washington, D.C., and urged commissioners to work with the feds “to explore every opportunity’ to soften the economic impact.

Pelly has told commissioners that one business, Palm Beach Aircraft Services, has estimated it will lose $2 million a year at Lantana. Another firm, Palm Beach Flight Training, told the county grounding of its Lantana operations during Trump visits could potentially force it out of business. And Windward Aviation, a maintenance firm at Lantana, says 90 percent of its customers use its Lantana site.

A big factor will be how often the rules will be in place.

“It’s a very difficult target,” Pelly said. “We don’t know how many times he’s going to come. We don’t know how long he’s going to stay.” But every year over the past two decades, Trump has spent the holidays at the complex.

This is frightening to say the least,” said new county commissioner Dave Kerner, whose district is in Lantana — and who said later he had his Bar Mitzvah at the airport.

“It’s not easy for us with our new president, in many areas,” said County Mayor Paulette Burdick, no fan of Trump. “But certainly in Palm Beach County the aviation industry is a significant business cluster. It’s a job generator.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Melania Trump makes cameo as Palm Beach County GOP raises money at Mar-a-Lago
Melania Trump makes cameo as Palm Beach County GOP raises money at Mar-a-Lago

Melania Trump leaves a VIP reception before the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner at Mar-a-Lago Club Friday in Palm Beach.
Political scandals aren't what they used to be — just ask Trey Radel
Political scandals aren't what they used to be — just ask Trey Radel

In late 2013, federal agents arrested Rep. Trey Radel after he attempted to buy $250 worth of cocaine near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Three months later, the Florida Republican resigned from Congress. Now, three years after that, he's back with a book about his experience. Such is the cycle of a Washington scandal. "Democrazy"...
Trumps plot big hotel expansion, but political problems loom
Trumps plot big hotel expansion, but political problems loom

The Trump family is launching a new hotel chain in a bold expansion of a company that critics say is already too big and opaque for an enterprise whose owner sits in the Oval Office.  The chain, called Scion, will feature the first Trump-run hotels not to bear the family's gilded name. The hotels will feature modern, sleek interiors and communal...
McCray-DeVoursney runoff in Boynton ‘boiling down’ along racial lines
McCray-DeVoursney runoff in Boynton ‘boiling down’ along racial lines

Minister Bernard Wright thinks Dr. James DeVoursney is qualified enough to trust him as his dermatologist, but not enough to vote for the doctor to represent him as his city commissioner. That job should remain with a black man — specifically Vice Mayor Mack McCray — said Wright, who recently posted the opinion on his Facebook page, leading...
FAU among 8 Florida universities short on mental health counselors

Eight of the 12 state universities fall below minimum staffing levels for mental-health counselors as the need for counseling services grows on campuses, a new report shows. The university system’s Board of Governors, which has asked for a $7 million increase in mental-health funding in the 2017-2018 budget, will receive an update on the counseling...
More Stories