Ontario International Airport

By Liset Marquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 02/02/15, 1:14 PM PST | Updated: 11 hrs ago

ONTARIO >> A former high-ranking Federal Aviation Authority official said Monday that L.A./Ontario International Airport is a national asset that plays an key role in the national airspace system and deserves its chance to be economically successful.

Between 1983 and 2013, the FAA has invested more that $210 million at ONT in grants for security and efficiency improvements, William Withycombe told the Ontario International Airport Authority at its monthly meeting.

“It’s truly a national asset that transcends local, or even regional importance,” said Withycombe, who served as the regional administrator for the Western-Pacific Region of the FAA until 2013.

Ontario, Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports are in a legal battle for local control of the airport. The Inland Empire delegation was established to become the governing body of the airport if control was transferred. Ontario claims LAWA abandoned efforts to spread air traffic, ignoring ONT in an effort to protect LAX.

Withycombe said the FAA has conveyed to local authorities that ONT remain a public airport servicing the public good.

“ONT can and must take a greater contribution to ensuring Southern California has the capacity to meet the demand for air travel well into the 21st century,” he added.

If Ontario were to fail and close, it would hurt the entire national system, said Alan Wapner, president of OIAA.

From a federal perspective, Withycombe said, it is highly unlikely that ONT would ever shut down based on the investments made in the last three decades, Withycombe said.

Withycombe, who has 40 years of experience in the aviation industry, acknowledged the FAA has taken the middle road on the ONT issue. In October, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said at Riverside event that the federal agency would not intervene.

“If it looked like there was a concern of federal investments — they may make take a position. Most of the current thinking within the federal aviation administration is to remain neutral on the status of the airport,” Withycombe said.

In the last decade alone, the federal authority has invested more than $75 million at ONT for runway rehabilitation, improving safety area and widening the taxiway, he noted.

“It has the potential to make larger contributions, both on the local economy and also meeting increasing demands for air travel in Southern California, where most airports, unlike Ontario, face constraints one time or another,” he said.

Transfers of commercial airports from one public agency to another do not involve a sale. Most are considered the transfer of sponsorship. In other words, the governance responsibilities are transferred to the successor authority, Withycombe said.

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