Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Federal Aviation Administration chief visits Rogers Executive Airport (KROG) and Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (KXNA): Huerta, Womack collect feedback on Northwest Arkansas needs

Michael Huerta (left), director of the Federal Aviation Administration, toured the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport on Monday at the invitation of Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., (right) of Rogers.

ROGERS -- The director of the Federal Aviation Administration inspected air travel needs in Northwest Arkansas on Monday while a debate about trucking held up approval of the agency's budget.

Director Michael Huerta toured the Rogers Executive Airport and Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport on Monday at the invitation of Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. Womack, of Rogers, accompanied Huerta on the tour. They will visit the Bentonville Municipal Airport today.

Neither Huerta nor Womack discussed specifics on what airport administrators asked from the pair during meetings Monday. Huerta said airport administrators stressed that they want a good working relationship with his agency and awareness of their needs.

The FAA will run out of money at the end of this month unless Congress passes a new appropriation bill. One of the issues still being negotiated in that bill affects the trucking industry, an industry vital to the region, according to Womack.

Mandated rest and meal times for all commercial vehicle operators -- for aircraft and trucks -- were first put into federal law in an FAA bill in 1994, said Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. But court cases since have upheld conflicting state requirements within different federal judicial circuits.

"Our position is that we are engaged in interstate commerce and should have one set of regulations," Newton said.

She added that other issues, such as a proposal to privatize much of the FAA's functions, are a bigger part of the authorization debate.

The U.S. Constitution puts matters of interstate commerce under the authority of the federal government. Spokesmen for the Teamsters union in Arkansas, which represents truck drivers, did not return telephone calls requesting comment.

In aviation matters, Northwest Arkansas' needs vary more than other parts of the country, Huerta said. For instance, traffic at the Rogers facility is business oriented, with different companies housing planes there.

The Rogers airport has about 120 aircraft based there including 25 business jets, according to a spokesman for the facility. Beaver Lake Aviation, a fully owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., oversees operations at the airport under contract with the city of Rogers.

"You have a lot of Fortune 500 companies here," Huerta said. Those companies have their own aviation departments, he said. Their planes need to avoid congested airports. "They don't want to operate out of a large commercial airport."

Airports that serve those companies need to operate without a loss while limiting the number of flights, he said.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport serves regular commercial air traffic, and Bentonville's airport serves general aviation and private pilots, Huerta and Womack said.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.arkansasonline.com

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