FAA seeks details of Miami cargo reliever plan

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FAA officials are to meet a consortium of Florida-based companies “in the next few months” to seek to clarify their plans to turn Hendry County Airglades airport into a cargo reliever for Miami International.

Speaking to Flightglobal on the sidelines of the ACI Economics and Finance conference in London, FAA’s deputy associate administrator for airports Ben DeLeon said the authority still has many “unanswered questions” about the consortium’s plan to turn the general aviation facility into a cargo hub for the state of Florida.

“It’s a consortium that has been put together, I can’t tell you exactly names, but it’s a group of Florida investors that are interested in that, and I think some of the companies in that area who are interested too, because if its a cargo operation, if it’s really successful it starts drawing up and taking care of some of the cargo coming up from South America,” says DeLeon.

“In the next few months we will work with them to clarify that, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions as to what that’s going to look financially, who is going to operate it, and the timescale and so on.”

Hendry County Airglades is one of 10 airports on the FAA’s Airport Privatisation Pilot Programme and DeLeon says one idea is that it could be used to take cargo traffic from Miami, allowing that gateway to expand its passenger services.

The airport is owned and operated by Hendry County and is 80 miles from Miami International airport. According to the FAA the airport has a 5,600ft runway and a general aviation terminal. Hendry County’s preliminary application was approved in October 2010 and the FAA states that the airport sponsor is currently “negotiating an agreement with a private operator”.

The FAA will also seek the views of other “interested parties” including Miami International airport which he adds would need to agree to the project for it to go ahead, DeLeon states. While he was not able to give a timescale for how long the privatisation process may take, he says he is “hopeful it won’t take long”.

Elsewhere, DeLeon says Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASUR) and Highstar Capital-owned Aerostar takeover of management of Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Marín International airport - the first airport to be privatised under the FAA programme - has been closely watched by airports across the USA and its long-term outcome could set the pace for privatisation elsewhere in the country.

“There are airports across the country that are probably interested in that approach – different flavours of the public-private partnership approach – I can’t give you specifics but people are actually monitoring and watching this Puerto Rico privatisation to see how it goes. If it’s successful that is going to help out other parts of the country to seriously move forward.”