Sunday, December 07, 2014

Guam International Airport under Federal Aviation Administration investigation

The Guam International Airport Authority is under investigation.

A letter from the Federal Aviation Administration director of airport compliance and management analysis Randall S. Fiertz to Star Marianas Air counsel Jason Goldstein of Richards & Associates on Nov. 13 confirms this.

A copy of the letter was received by the airport’s counsel Calvo Fisher & Jacob LLC last Nov. 21.

“I understand that on Sept. 16 you contacted FAA’s Western-Pacific Region Airports division requesting an investigation. That investigation is both recent and ongoing,” Fiertz told Goldstein.

Fiertz said the “investigation process initiated by the Western Pacific Region, in accordance with 14 CFR Part 13, presumptively provides a reasonable prospect for resolution.”

14 CFR Part 13 is an informal investigation process as opposed to 14 CFR Part 16.

Star Marianas Air sought a formal Part 16 investigation as well which FAA dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 14 CFR §16.27 or incomplete complaint.

Under 14 CFR §16.27, “If a complaint is not dismissed pursuant to § 16.25 of this part, but is deficient as to one or more of the requirements set forth in § 16.21 or § 16.23(b), the Director will dismiss the complaint within 20 days after receiving it. Dismissal will be without prejudice to the refiling of the complaint after amendment to correct the deficiency. The Director’s dismissal will include the reasons for the dismissal.”

Fiertz explained to Goldstein that pursuant to 14 CFR §16.21, before filing a Part 16 complaint, a person directly and substantially affected by the alleged noncompliance must engage in good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally with those individuals or entities believed responsible for the noncompliance.

Firtz said, “A complaint under this part will not be considered unless it certifies that (1) the complainant has made substantial and reasonable good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally prior to filing the complaint; and (2) there is no reasonable prospect for practical and timely resolution of the dispute.

Last Sept. 16, Star Marianas Air through its chairman Robert Christian elevated the issue to FAA seeking an investigation of the Guam International Airport Authority for breach of grant assurances.

Star Marianas Air has been attempting to provide scheduled and charter flights between the Northern Marianas and Guam; however, it claims to have hit roadblocks with its application to do so.

According to the regional carrier, GIAA has leased the commuter terminal designated on the airport layout plan to United Airlines Human Resources and continues to deny SMA the use of the commuter passenger building for its aeronautical use.

Star Marianas Air claims the airport is using the space for non-aeronautical purposes which is a breach of grant assurances.

The airline said that GIAA has breached Grant Assurance 22, Grant Assurance 23 and Grant Assurance 24 which in effect prevents SMA from having airside access to the Guam airport terminal.

Grant Assurance 22 is on economic nondiscrimination which requires the airport sponsor to make its airport available for public use “without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities.”

Grant Assurance 23 pertains to exclusive rights whereby it will permit no exclusive right for the use of the airport by any person providing, or intending to provide, aeronautical services to the public.

Grant Assurance 24 covers fee and rental structure which requires the airport sponsor to assure that it will maintain a fee and rental structure for the facilities and services at the airport which will make the airport as self-sustaining as possible under the circumstances existing at a particular airport.

Further on the Part 16 investigation request by SMA, FAA said that for a Part 13 informal investigation to be elevated to Part 16, certification as cited in 14 CFR §16.21(b)is required.

The certification, Variety learned, must include a description of the party’s efforts to obtain informal resolution but shall not include information on monetary or other settlement offers made but not agreed upon in writing by all parties.

Efforts to seek an informal resolution must be recent and with pertinent documentation.

Fiertz, in response to SMA, wrote, “Your pleading does not indicate why the informal Part 13 resolution process offers no such prospect, or why FAA should commence the Part 16 process while the informal Part 13 process is ongoing.”

In an interview, Star Marianas Air Inc. president Shaun Christian confirmed to Variety that an informal investigation is ongoing.

“We have been informed that the FAA is investigating our informal complaint, but we do not have any feedback from them on how the investigation is going or how long it will take,” he said.

“To date we have received no formal timeframe from the GIAA when they will have a location available for us that allows self-access / self-handling of our aircraft and customers consistent with the size and scope of our operation,” he said.

He said they remain hopeful that SMA will receive feedback from them “in the near future that puts a definitive timeframe on when we can begin using the airport without being required to contract third party ground handlers at a substantial cost.”

But if the FAA investigation drags on too long, Christian said they may consider their legal options.

“At this point we are considering our legal options if the FAA’s investigation drags on too long or if the Guam Airport does not provide us with a location to operate from, including possibly filing a lawsuit in federal court against them. Hopefully this won’t be necessary and the FAA and the GIAA will work together to bring the airport into compliance with its regulatory requirements as a recipient of Federal Airport Improvement funds,” said Christian.

SMA’s efforts to offer scheduled flights to Guam have been ongoing for the last two years.

For its Guam-Rota-Saipan flights, Star Marianas Air is planning to use five passenger planes and seven cargo planes. It plans to use five nine-passenger aircraft, PA-31-350, Piper Super Chieftain and seven cargo planes.

They intend to provide the traveling public with an alternative to Cape Air.

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