CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The battle over airport control is turning into more of a fight than Regional Airport Commission attorneys and Aviation Director Jerry Orr expected.
“I thought this was easy,” Orr said, referring to how fast he thought a change in control would happen.
Going into Friday's court hearing, the commission's hope was Judge Robert Ervin would weigh in on two key questions the FAA said it needed the North Carolina court system to answer before moving forward on deciding who controls the airport's operating certificate.
- Is the airport commission an agency of the city?
- And, does the new commission have the authority to operate the airport on behalf of the city?
Airport Commission Attorney Richard Vinroot says the answers are an easy “yes” because that’s what the new law says, but Judge Ervin chose not to go there.
"Seems to be their call,” Judge Ervin said referring to the FAA.
"It seems to me, what he's doing, in a sense, is punting it back to the FAA, and our hope is the FAA will see the light,” Vinroot said.
Charlotte City Attorney Robert Hagemann says the FAA making that decision could take months, if not years, despite lawmakers voting this summer to give control to a regional authority. A court injunction after that law went into effect currently keeps the airport under city control.
"The fact we're having this disagreement and the FAA can't figure it out, to me, proves the legislation was not well thought out,” Hagemann said.
"I think today was a good day for citizens of Charlotte. What I learned today is we still have a good position,” said Charlotte City Council Member Andy Dulin.
The regional airport commission and their attorneys plan to challenge again soon with a new motion to dismiss the entire case.
Next week, the newly created Regional Airport Authority is scheduled to meet as a group for the first time, but will have no control over airport operations.