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AIRPORT MONOPOLY?

By C.T. |

THE ADDISON election was won by the Big Jet Scare, but the nonissue of passenger jets is not the only airport question troubling the town. A much more complex airport problem has been simmering for years.

First, some background: Addison Airport was privately owned until late 1976. The Addison-North Dallas real estate boom was getting under way then, and land values were soaring. Many people believed that the increasingly valuable airport land might be sold and subdivided.

Officials of the FAA feared this prospect. Addison Airport had figured prominently in the development of D/FW airport, which requires a system of small “reliever” airports to handle general aviation. Without such relievers, the skies over D/FW would be dangerously crowded. So the FAA approached the town of Addison with a proposal: If Addison would put up 10 percent of the airport purchase price ($800,000), the FAA would pay 90 percent ($7.2 million) from its user trust fund.

THE ADDISON election was won by the Big Jet Scare, but the nonissue of pas-senger jets is not the only airport question troubling the town. A much more complex airport problem has been simmering for years.First, some background: Addison Air-port was privately owned until late 1976. The Addison-North Dallas real estate boom was getting under way then, and land values were soaring. Many people believed that the increasingly valuable air-port land might be sold and subdivided.Officials of the FAA feared this pros-pect. Addison Airport had figured promi-nently in the development of D/FW air-port, which requires a system of small “reliever” airports to handle general avia-tion. Without such relievers, the skies over D/FW would be dangerously crowded. So the FAA approached the town of Addison with a proposal: If Addison would put up 10 percent of the airport purchase price ($800,000), the FAA would pay 90 percent ($7.2 million) from its user trust fund.In short, Stuart’s books were no longer public records. Councilman Richard Roder joined in the unanimous vote. Mayor Jerry Redding, as Stuart’s business partner, did not vote.

Stuart’s troubles began when people like Jim Donaldson and Ray Stern (of Jet Flight) wanted to compete with him at the airport. When Donaldson sought to open his company, he found that he was required to pay a 9 percent fuel flowage fee on each gallon of fuel he sold.

Donaldson and the others complained to city officials, but they were referred to Stuart in a classic Catch-22 runaround. Donaldson took his gripe to the FAA, which requested Stuart’s records to determine whether there was any justification for the “two-tiered” fuel fee system. Stuart refused to supply any records except monthly and yearly gross receipts. According to Addison’s comprehensive annual financial report for fiscal year 1981, Addison’s 3 percent of the airport gross came to $164,142. AATI grossed approximately $5.33 million from the airport that year.

Between January and July 1981, the FAA made repeated requests for Stuart’s records. All were denied. Finally, on July 16, 1981, the FAA declared Addison in noncompliance with the grant agreements and cut off federal funds to the airport.

In mid-March of this year, the FAA began an administrative hearing on the Addison affair. A hearing officer was empowered to decide whether the agency has the right to obtain Stuart’s records. Still to come is the question of fuel flowage fees.

Depositions and testimony by city officials, FAA witnesses and airport experts revealed several facts about the city’s relationship with Henry Stuart:

●The city apparently made an effort to influence the FAA investigation when Redding and Stuart arranged a meeting between Rep. Jim Wright of Fort Worth and Tex Melugin, head of the Fort Worth office of the FAA. The meeting was held, but Wright did not intervene in the matter.

●Stuart was originally given a 20-year lease on the airport; that term was approved by the FAA. Since then, the city has periodically renewed and extended the lease without FAA consent, thus granting Stuart almost perpetual control over the airport. “I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t go on for 99 years,” Redding said.

●The city sold bonds to finance a new air terminal but didn’t open the project for public bids. The money was turned over to AATI to do the construction.