WILEY FORD, W.Va. — The Potomac Highlands Airport Authority has declined to approve the National Road Autosport’s request to hold autosports events at The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport due to Federal Aviation Administration funding stipulations for Airport Improvement Projects, according to Ryan Shaffer, airport manager.
In September, the authority was awarded a $2.3 million Federal Aviation Administration grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for runway rehabilitation at the airport.
“The Federal Aviation Administration has made it clear that holding these autosport events at the airport contravenes funding criteria laid down by the FAA, and the airport is reliant on that funding for our long-needed expansion and upgrade projects,” said the authority in a statement. “In light of these facts, the board must regretfully decline to allow National Road Autosport to hold further events at the airport.”
The obligations for accepting AIP funds include operating and maintaining the airport in a safe and serviceable condition, not granting exclusive rights, mitigating hazards to airspace and using airport revenue properly, according to the FAA.
National Road Autosport was notified of the authority’s decision to via a letter, which denied the group’s request to hold autosports events for weekends in May through October, according to John Felten, president of the National Road Autosport.
“We are looking into it and getting a legal interpretation of the FAA’s rules of operations at the airport. I think they are being misinterpreted on their part,” said Felten. “We have operated there the last 11 seasons and we didn’t feel like we were in violation then or now.”
Felten said that during auto events the airport is never entirely shut down and that just a portion of the airport is closed. The secretary has the authority to approve airport closures for non-aeronautical purposes however, per the FAA Compliance Handbook, which is more restrictive, an entire obligated airport may not be closed for non-aeronautical purposes. Partial closures are allowed if the proposed event promotes aviation, according to FAA compliance guidelines.
The organization has considered other venues for the autosports but nothing in its present format that suits the need for space. The Allegany County Fairgrounds has been considered, but an in-depth discussion hasn’t occurred with the Allegany County commissioners, according to Felten.
“We look forward ... to working with the National Road Autosport organization and the local community in finding another location for their events,” said the authority in a statement.
The organization is on a time constraint and has asked to be placed on the agenda, to discuss the matter further, for the next authority meeting in January, according to Felten.
Autocross, which is one of the auto events held at the airport, has played host to 7,000 independent racers participating in the event from 2002 to 2013, according to Dave Williams, former member of the National Road Autosport LLC.