Friday, May 13, 2022

Magee Municipal Airport (17M), Mississippi: Pilot gets booted following city board meeting



Local pilot receives eviction notice following complaints about safety violations to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Notice of eviction came from airport manager, Ashley Steele in the form of a cellphone text message.  Hubbard sent the message to a local, Gerald Horan, who posted it to a local blog, Citizens of Simpson County.  

The text according to Hubbard was from Steele and read, “Mr. Hubbard at the conclusion of tonight (sic) board of alderman meeting this is your formal notification that you have 30 days to vacate the hanger (sic) on airport premises.  The hanger (sic) must be vacated on or before June 3, 2022.”  

Hubbard responded by saying, “Haha.  Is this how you run the airport department for the Magee airport?  I don’t have my helicopter at 17 M (designation for Magee airport).  Y’all are apparently confused.  I have it hangar at Bobby Chain in Hattiesburg (if you want my tail number call Bobby Chain in Hattiesburg they have it!)  Send your 30-day notice to someone else."  

Steele responded to Hubbard saying, “Ok, great, It worked out great that is already gone.”  

Next message from Steele, “Thank you and have a great day.”

This all occurred following the board meeting on Tuesday night of the Magee Board.  

During the meeting Alderman Mark Grubbs suggested that the board should go into executive session to discuss airport matters.  

According to the Mississippi Code discussion of airport matters would not qualify for executive session.  However, the board used the reason of personnel to go into session when they did go into session.  

The paper contacted Marc McMillian, board attorney and he referred the paper to the minutes of board meeting.  Statute calls for draft minutes to be completed within five days of meeting and are public record.  The minutes become official once the board adopts them at the next monthly board meeting.  

McMillian said that notice given to Hubbard was part of the normal duties of the airport manager executing their job responsibilities.  He said there was no action of the board in this regard.  The paper inquired as to if it was discussed, and he said that was covered under executive session and did not reveal discussion.  The newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request for the draft minutes.

However, he did say that it was appropriate for the session to be held regarding personnel and referred to the minutes regarding any action taken.

Hubbard said, that he finds it interesting that the city could evict him when he did not hold a lease with the city.  He said he had a financial interest in an aircraft associated with the Blaine Company who does have a hangar.  Steele had previously commented that Hubbard was subletting from Blaine and according to her the lease contract does not allow for that.  

Hubbard said that all they had to do was to contact him and he would have gladly informed them of arrangement.  Hubbard said he was one of the largest fuel purchasers at the airport.  Hubbard said he does own an aircraft, a helicopter which is hangared in Hattiesburg.  

Hubbard filed a complaint after he notified the city there were issues with the fuel at the airport and no actions were taken. The FAA responded there were safety issues that were going to have to be addressed otherwise they could face issues regarding existing and future funding.  It was recommended that the city should consider privatizing some of the issues that surface through a firm that provides like services for the Vicksburg and surrounding area airports, Rebel Contracting.    
Hubbard said it is his intention to fight the issue in court if it becomes necessary.  Aside from being reported locally the issue was also previously broadcast on Jackson television. 

Keafur Grimes, who consults with the airport, reported inaccuracies to the board from the newspaper.  The paper contacted him and he said that it was confusing between the complaint and the findings from the FAA and some people were unclear as to the results of fuel testing.  The fuel was reported as clear of contaminants but the standards of testing were not outlined by the FAA.  This according to Grimes who said he is going to seek additional guidelines with the FAA.