Recently people have been talking about closing the Minneapolis-Crystal Airport (KMIC), again. It seems some people feel it is a better, safer use of the land to close the airport and redevelop it, even though the people supporting closure haven’t really done any due diligence to support their position. Reading behind the “safety” excuse, the real reason is that they feel they can make more money through redevelopment.
Interestingly, and fortunately for those of us who fly out of the Crystal Airport and want to keep it open, the same people touting the benefits of airport closure and redevelopment appear to have no idea how complicated and lengthy a process it is to close an airport. Not to mention the extreme opposition they would face. Several very large hurdles would need to be overcome in order to close the Crystal Airport.
First, and probably most importantly, the FAA would need to approve closure of the Crystal Airport. This is unlikely. The FAA doesn’t like closing airports. Especially when the airport being closed is not being replaced. The FAA’s position is that all airports play an integral role in the air transportation system of this country. More specifically, the Crystal Airport plays a critical role in relieving traffic congestion from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (KMSP).
Next, the Metropolitan Airports Commission has no intentions of closing the Crystal Airport. The Crystal Airport is part of its “reliever system” that relieves congestion at Minneapolis. Also, closure of the Crystal Airport would displace approximately 250 aircraft to the other already over-crowded reliever airports. This would leave little room for added growth the MAC is expecting at these airports in the future.
Also, the MAC can’t afford to close the Crystal Airport. Every year the MAC receives money from the Airport Improvement Program in the form of grants. Each year it uses some of this money at the Crystal Airport. One of the conditions of receiving this grant money is that the airport operator agrees to keep the airport open for 20 years from the date it receives the grant. Alternatively, if the operator wanted to close the airport sooner than 20 years, the operator would need to repay the grant money it received. (This happened in Chicago when the city repaid its grant obligations before its midnight assault on Meigs Field). Given MAC’s current fiscal crisis, it clearly cannot afford to repay those grants.
Finally, closure of the Crystal Airport would require legislative approval. The legislature created the MAC and the reliever airport system for reasons. Those reasons have not changed. Additionally, closing the Crystal Airport would be a tough sell in light of the legislative clout possessed by aircraft owners and operators.
I think the Crystal Airport is safe for the time being. However, on-going diligence and participation will be required to ensure that the Crystal Airport remains open and successful.