St. Augustine Airport Questionnaire – Response by Austin Lanteigne

1. What is your aviation background and how did you first develop an interest in aviation?

After graduating from the United States Naval Academy, I served in the United States Navy as a Naval Flight Officer for nearly 8 years. This included deployments as a navigator/communicator, tactical coordinator, and mission commander on board the P-3 Orion. I later served as the Aviation Officer for the Mid-South NROTC Consortium.

a. Are you active in the aviation industry and how?

No, and this is important for our Airport Authority Board as Florida Statute 2002-347 states that “Not more than two of the (board) members shall be persons who are primarily engaged in the aviation business.” Our constituents recognize that it is important we elect leaders who understand the aviation community but not are beholden to special interests.

b. What issues do you come across in your participation in aviation with airport authorities or sponsors. 

The real issues lie within the communication/transparency between our Airport Authority Board and the community. The Board is elected by the people of St. Johns County, not just individuals within the aviation industry.


2. Many past and present candidates claim the airport should not be on the tax rolls, yet few ever speak of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Assurances under Chapter 49 U.S.C. 

a. Are you familiar with FAA Assurances and what can be done to improve compliance and growth at the airport? 

Yes. If federal grants are given at all, they shouldn’t be given out frivolously. We must ask ourselves why the federal government should be involved in airport growth in the first place. It isn’t fair for the aviation community to be taxed only for those funds to then be placed in a federally centralized program that then allows a larger government entity to pick winners and losers across the country. We must decentralize the entire process to better serve local and regional needs.


3. The Airport Authority changed the name to Northeast Florida Regional Airport.  Do you agree with the name change and do you believe it has helped or hurt increasing traffic and revenue?

No. I believe this is hindering traffic and revenue potential. Additionally, the website is “FlyNF.com” while the Instagram page is “@northeastregionalairport” and the twitter handle is “@flyUST” – The lack of consistency is challenging and confuses potential clients. Simple and clear marketing for the “St. Augustine Regional Airport” would work much better.


4. What is your position concerning attempts to secure airline services? 

a. Do you believe the past airline services supported local residents? 

From my communication with members of the community, many local residents believe commercial options to general hubs in the southeast would be extremely beneficial as an alternative to Jacksonville and/or Daytona.

b. Do you have a plan to market for commercial airline services?

I would love to have a commercial airline service option at NFRA but don’t believe it is the government’s responsibility to market for that potential during such a challenging time for the industry.

c. Do you believe we should implement the same airline services as before or expand the market to target major hubs or common vacation spots for St. Augustine Airport?   

We should have options to reach a major hub as well as vacation locations like Key West.


5. In the past, the airport has reportedly treated part 135 operations in a way that caused them to relocate their main base to other airports. 

a. Why is this good or bad for St. John’s County? 

The Airport Authority Board should get out of the way and allow for part 135 operations to take place with ease at NFRA. We should be catering to private needs and the basic economics resulting from supply and demand. If that means people want to operate private, non-scheduled services at our airport we should assist in making sure there are no obstacles in doing so.

b. Do you believe that could potentially be an Assurance violation if local charter companies are charged more than charter companies that are not based at our Airport?

An airport should choose to operate however it feels it will best serve its customers. Government shouldn’t get in their way of doing so. This is why the funding and grant process needs to be, in the very least, decentralized.


6.What can be done to increase the amount of locally based business aircraft, particularly private jets, and turbo prop aircraft?

We must promote privatization in and around the airport. It isn’t the responsibility of the government to increase aircraft in the area. If private entities owned neighboring land they could sell/develop as they see fit. That could enhance the amount of locally based business aircraft if the market dictated.

a. Do you know what the average day rate or salary is for pilots of business jets and turbo props?

Yes.

b. Do you believe these are well paying/high income jobs?

Yes.


7. What can be done to increase the amount of locally based general aircraft?

Again, we must promote privatization in and around the airport. It isn’t the responsibility of the government to increase aircraft in the area. If private entities owned neighboring land they could sell/develop as they see fit. That could enhance the amount of locally based general aircraft if the market dictated.


8. In addition to pilot, aircraft maintenance, and operations jobs, what other areas can the Airport Authority target to increase high income jobs to our area?

It can sell its property west of US-1 to entities looking to develop high income jobs to the area.


9. The airport authority owns a considerable amount of property that is not adjacent to the airport and or is across US 1 and the railroad tracks.  Additionally, the airport has listed future plans.

a. Do you believe this plan should be adjusted, does the airport own property that it should, or should the airport attempt to purchase additional properties? 

The airport should seek to own less land and should sell much of the abandoned and poorly maintained property back to the community in an effort to promote private growth around the area. The updated Master Plan does not take our community interests to heart as it creates traffic concerns, involves more land acquisition (possibly through eminent domain), and negatively impacts the Tolomato River.

b. Can and should the Airport Authority do more to have additional construction of private hangers?

Within its current property constraints and with its own operating revenue, yes.

c. Should the Airport obtain property to the south for expansion?  Is eminent domain a proper measure to obtain property?

No. The land boundaries of St. Johns County are not growing, so why should the airport? When government entities grow, they are taking a larger percentage of land within the county boundaries and away from our community. We shouldn’t be taking land away from our community/property owners. Eminent domain is never a proper measure and is a violation of personal property rights.


10. What can be done to increase revenue at the airport and increase the economic impact of St. Johns County?

To increase the economic impact in St. Johns County, the airport should promote privatization in and around the airport. Hangar One Bistro is a perfect example of how we can accomplish this. This restaurant brings our community to the airport and opens the door for guests to view other public opportunities at the airport. I believe the airport can spur economic growth in the community by allowing the community to develop private enterprises on the property NFRA currently owns – specifically the property owned on the west side of US-1.


11. Some candidates have referenced reducing governmental involvement at the airport. 

a. What is your position and what governmental involvement would you eliminate?

The Airport Authority Board is elected by the people of St. Johns County and should look to serve the citizens that elected them. We can only do this by never executing eminent domain, promoting privatization, and ensuring the airport stays off the county tax rolls.


12. What can or should the airport authority do to increase exposure to the airport and aviation to the youth of St. Johns County?

Our current passenger terminal sits empty and would serve as an incredible STEM lab for our youth. While the terminal sits empty, we should partner with educational programs to offer summer STEM camps that teach aviation, provide static displays of aircraft, and allows the youth to hear from individuals working within the aviation industry. Hopefully grant assurances from a centralized location wouldn’t be a hinderance in providing such an opportunity for our local community.


13. Do you have any endorsements?

Yes.

For more information about Austin Lantegine check out his website AustinLanteigne.com or find on him on Facebook @alanteigneSJC

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