Saturday, September 2, 2017

Letters to the Editor: Wrong turn taken within Whiteside County Airport (KSQI) Board; M&M Aviation should be kept on as manager

By Nick Simmer
Note to readers: Nick Simmer is a private pilot and local business owner who uses the Whiteside County Airport as an aid to his travels.

 Nick Simmer

Last week, I became aware of some actions that were taking place relating to the replacement of M&M Aviation, who has been the Whiteside County Airport’s fixed-base operator (FBO) and airport manager for 21 years.

Through the years, M&M Aviation has provided a wide variety of services, such as flight instruction, airplane rental, maintenance, charter services and more. M&M Aviation has four aircraft onsite, three of which are rented daily and the other exclusive to charter.

I began my aviation career last October. Since then, I've spent $15,000 on learning and flying, and although I’m now a pilot, I’m still seeking further endorsements that require more training. My flight instructor is one of M&M’s FAA-certified flight instructors.

These services will disappear from the airport because not only do the four aircraft leave with M&M Aviation, the instructors leave as well – as do the maintenance staff and products sold by M&M.

The incoming manager has no airport manager experience, has no accredited flight school program, has no maintenance staff, and only promises to provide one aircraft (that he doesn’t yet own).

To further complicate airport revenue, Airport Board President Dave Koster lobbied the Airport Board back in July to do away with some of those services, one of which is charter services, a requirement in previous requests for proposals (RFP).

I question that judgement, since Koster has not provided any research data to show charters are not needed because of “lack of interest,” but yet M&M Aviation continues to charter flights on a daily basis. He says airlines are “cheaper.” I am a bit curious which airline will pick me up at the Whiteside County Airport for less money than I can pick up a charter for, but that’s not the point.

A few other issues that stand out are possible conflicts of interest, being Dave Koster and Darin Heffelfinger (proposed FBO manager) are friends, along with two others who sit on the board, all of whom are members of the Twin Cities Air Activities Club, a direct competitor to M&M Aviation. It is believed that Darin is a paid member of that non-profit group.

More of those details will be rolling out in the news media outlets.

I hope the Whiteside County Board will see clear to a full reversal of the Airport Board’s actions, grant M&M Aviation a new contract, and direct the Airport Board to start over with the RFP. We do not need to lose an FBO with 21 years of excellence to a group of unknowns.

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