Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2018 issue
FREDERICK, MD – In August 2017, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) filed three Part 13 complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over egregious FBO fees at three airports, one of which was Waukegan National Airport, just outside of Chicago. But following recent improvements, AOPA has withdrawn its complaint, acknowledging the steps taken by the airport to make it more accessible and friendlier to pilots.
AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker said, “Grant Farrell from the Waukegan Port District and Skip Goss, the airport manager, understand the value of general aviation and importance of competition. We thank them for listening to our concerns and taking proactive steps to meet federal grant obligations and improve access.”
The airport management has made concerted and transparent actions to improve the accessibility of the airport to transient users by offering alternative ramp parking and facilitating lower fuel prices.
AOPA’s complaint alleged that the sole fixed base operator on the field was using its monopoly position to force aircraft operators to buy unreasonably priced fuel and pay fees for services that were neither requested nor utilized.
In response, the airport announced in December 2017 that it would offer free tie-downs for transient aircraft and a pedestrian gate to access the ramp so pilots and passengers are not forced to go through the fixed base operation. The operator also reduced the price of self-service avgas from almost $6 a gallon to $4.81.
“This is just the sort of response we are hoping for,” Baker said. “Our preference is that airport sponsors and FBOs themselves seek ways to give pilots choices when an FBO has a monopoly. We hope other locations can see Waukegan as a model. In the meantime, we will continue to press other locations to be more transparent with their fee structures and to provide pilots with choices when it comes to which services they choose to use at an airport.”