Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018 issue
WAUKEGAN, ILL. (December 21, 2017) – Following AOPA’s complaint to the FAA over fixed-base operator (FBO) pricing practices at Waukegan National Airport in the Chicago area community of Waukegan, Illinois, local leaders have taken steps to make the field more accessible and friendlier for general aviation. Since December 2017, the airport has been advertising free tie-downs for transient aircraft, along with a pedestrian gate that will allow pilots and passengers direct access to their aircraft instead of having to walk through the FBO. The FBO also agreed to lower the price of self-service avgas from nearly $6 a gallon to a recently reported $4.81 a gallon.
When AOPA initiated its ongoing inquiry into egregious FBO prices and fees, Waukegan’s single FBO was identified as one of AOPA’s most-complained about locations. However, airport management and leadership have since been proactive in trying to address concerns.
When AOPA contacted the airport to verify complaints, airport officials told AOPA that the FBO controls the entire ramp space for parking. While airport officials contend the free ramp space has been open to transient aircraft for some time, they acknowledge the availability has not been communicated effectively. To change that, the airport website now includes a map depicting the locations of the ramp, self-service avgas, and an access gate. To use the access gate, pilots must call ahead to give their flight information and receive a unique code from the airport.
Officials told AOPA that the airport is also working to bring down the price of Jet A and provide users of the alternative transient ramp some basic amenities, like restrooms.
Barry McKenna, the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) representative at Waukegan, said, “The airport has been trying to change things and make Waukegan a much friendlier place.” McKenna called the recent changes, “a step in the right direction.”
Waukegan sits just north of Chicago and is home to Skill Aviation, a flight school that has been recognized for excellence by AOPA three years in a row, and Stick & Rudder Flying Club, which has been operating since 1948. The airport also hosts an annual airshow; supports a local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program; and sponsors the Lake County Veterans Memorial Plaza.
(Reported by Joe Kildea, AOPA)