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Charlotte Airport Battle Drags On As FAA Deliberates

Julie Rose

Federal regulators are refusing to deal directly with former Charlotte airport director Jerry Orr and the commission state lawmakers appointed him to lead. That's according to the commission's attorney, Richard Vinroot, who says the FAA has also made clear that its decision regarding the airport's governance will not be "expedited." 

In mid-August, a judge put the ball in the FAA's court in this battle for control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.  If the commission created by state lawmakers to run the airport is in a legal position to do so, the FAA needs to say so. Jerry Orr and airport commission attorney, Richard Vinroot, have since written three letters seeking that approval from the FAA.

But Vinroot says none of those letters has received a response from the FAA. He subsequently arranged a conference call that he says was "disappointing."

"They're not going to deal with us at all, not going to include us in any of the discussions and not going to move to quickly resolve the matter," says Vinroot.

FAA officials have been in contact by phone and email with Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann, though. He is representing the city in its fight to block the commission and Jerry Orr from taking control of the airport. 

Until the FAA says otherwise, the airport remains a department of the city, under the direction of Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee and his interim-aviation director Brent Cagle.

Other parts of the legislation remain in effect, including Orr's employment as commission director, for which he is being paid his $211,000 salary out of airport revenues. The legislation also requires the city and six surrounding counties to make appointments to the airport commission by October 1st, but Carlee says, "the city council, at this point, has not made a decision as to whether or not to make its appointments, or when they will be made."

Since the city council and mayor are responsible for appointing a majority of the commission's board, they may be able to prevent it from taking shape by refusing to make appointments.

The legislation puts the airport's existing advisory committee in charge of the commission in the interim, but Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey sidelined that committee in July with instructions that it no longer hold its monthly meetings.