Pilots Association Argues Against Heber's Decision To Scrap Airport Minimum Standards

Apr 22, 2019

Credit Heber City

Heber City’s airport’s lone Fixed Base Operator is OK3 Air. Ken Mead, General Counsel for Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says that OK3’s position is that of a monopoly that allows them to boost prices on services that FBO’s offer to pilots such as fueling, light maintenance and hanger storage.

Mead even says that OK3 is charging more for fuel than Salt Lake International Airport.

In 2017 Heber City adopted standards that would increase competition at the airport which lead to the city putting out an RFP for a second Fixed Base Operator or FBO. In response to the newly adopted standards OK3 Air began suing the city. In an April 5th letter to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association or AOPA, Heber City Manager Matt Brower said that “these disputes have diverted and will continue to divert limited resources and attention from the underlying issue facing the Airport, and limits participation in the Master Plan process.” As a result the city council rescinded the 2017 airport minimum standards and placed a moratorium on airport development at the April 2nd City Council meeting.

AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead argues that if the city is stretched thin by litigation from OK3 they should ask for help from the FAA.

“I know this litigation has been costly and they wanted to bring it to an end," Mead said. "Maybe the city needs to go to the Federal Aviation Administration ask the Federal Aviation Administration to apply some pressure, because these airports have been the recipient of lots of federal money. In exchange for that they have to pledge to use that money in a certain way and not do certain things. Some of the certain things that they promised to do are to charge reasonable and fair prices, and that cascades down to their vendors like a fixed base operator OK 3. It also prohibits unjust discrimination. It also prohibits, and this is the key one at Heber City, the granting of an exclusive right to anybody. What you have at Heber City is the granting of an exclusive right or a monopoly position. That violates an FAA grant assurance. I think Heber City aught to be asking FAA to come down on the situation and say Hey you got an exclusive right here you can’t have that. So all we're asking is we want that enforced. We want it enforced aggressively, because it's being taken out on our members in the terms of high prices.”

Mead says that thwarting competition at the Airport simply cannot be squared with the Airport’s newly adopted position to let the exclusive right continue unchecked at the Airport for some undefined future.

“It’s misguided thinking to believe that OK3 as part of the Master Planning processes is all of the sudden going to see the light and say, ‘Hey I'm not going to sue you anymore. It's OK for you to bring in competition.’ I just can't see that," Mead continued. "I don't know where the city has got the notion that OK3 in two years is going to be ok with competition and self-serve fueling and why that would change the circumstance. We would like to see the city go forward with its Master Plan planning but reinstate the pro-competitive provisions of the 2017 standards that they approved back then. The whole Master Planning process should proceed from the foundation that embraces competition and fairness. It should not be proceeding from a foundation that cements in place a monopoly position.”

Near the end of his letter to AOPA, Brower explained the city’s intentions.

“To be clear, the City has no intention of granting the incumbent FBO an exclusive right or denying qualified service providers a reasonable opportunity to establish businesses at the Airport," Brower explained. "The City has merely suspended its consideration of further airport development for the next 18-24 months, in order to ensure that such development proceeds in an orderly fashion that takes into account the needs of all Airport users.”