CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Federal Aviation Administration says Charlotte Douglas International Airport will stay under the city's control for now, because the FAA will not act on transferring the airport's operating certificate to a regional commission until legal issues are resolved in court.
Just who operates the airport and who has the legal and financial tools to control it are questions the FAA wants answered by a judge before determining who gets the airport's operating certificate.
The city has operated the airport for decades. This summer, state lawmakers approved a regional airport commission to take control.
"The bill is littered with ambiguity and contradictory language, and it’s the reason why we're in court arguing. What exactly did the legislature create?" Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said at a news conference Thursday.
Hagemann says the FAA's letter, leaving control in the city's hands until legal matters are resolved, is a victory for the city because airport commission proponents figured the airport would already be in their control by now.
"They did not get that. I don't know how that can be interpreted as anything other than a victory for the city," he said.
But Senator Bob Rucho, who pushed the new airport commission through Raleigh, says the FAA's letter seeking clarification is a victory for him too because the FAA makes it clear what needs attention.
"If these questions are answered satisfactorily to the judge, then the judge should be able to move forward," Rucho said by phone.
Richard Vinroot, attorney for the regional airport commission, and longtime Aviation Director Jerry Orr say the questions the FAA wants answered aren't difficult: the city owns the airport and new state law says a new commission runs it.
"This is pretty clear how this is going to end. Pretty clear what the right answers are. A question of when, not whether this commission will operate the airport," Vinroot said.
The city's legal fight against the state was on hold while waiting for the FAA's answer.
Now that it's here, expect the fight to be back in court soon, possibly with new paperwork filed next week.
City leaders say they've never been given a good explanation why state lawmakers went after airport control.
In an op-ed, Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey calls the legislation "a solution in search of a problem."
Senator Rucho says it comes down to the financial and future leadership of the airport.