$1 Billion Flight Plan: Officials: ‘This guy is from ‘The Twilight Zone’’
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KINGMAN – They didn’t say it in so many words, but officials at the Kingman Airport Authority don’t believe a plan to sell the airport for $1 billion dollars is going to fly.
Contacted Saturday at the end of an exhausting 10-day hunting trip, Dave French had enough energy to express serious doubts over a proposal to purchase the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park for $1 billion.
“I kind of agree with the FAA. It sounds like a fairy tale,” said French, the executive director of the Kingman Airport Authority.
He was paraphrasing an official from the Federal Aviation Administration, who said, “This guy is from the ‘Twilight Zone.’”
French was hunting when James Heldman and others visited the airport and has not yet met the man. “I have not seen them, but I think the plan is to make Kingman a reliever airport for McCarran,” the Las Vegas airport.
Heldman has wildly ambitious plans for the airport, including a guarantee of at least 1,000 high-paying new jobs.
What would it take for that to happen? According to French, more than a billion dollars is required to buy a public airport heavily regulated by the FAA.
“It would take years and years of negotiations and making deals with the local, state and federal authorities,” said French.
“The FAA won’t be easy to deal with unless maybe you’re a friend of Donald Trump and I don’t think he is.”
And then there’s the question of whether the city even has the authority to sell the airport.
“No,” said French when asked. “They could give it to another (public) entity that might be able to sell it, but again, not without years of involvement with the FAA.”
He said when Mohave County ceded authority over the airport to the city, all three entities had a long list of rules to follow.
One of them regards state laws involving the process for the disposing of public property. It’s a doozy, and it is one of many regulations that could stop the project before it starts.
“Let’s say the airport is cleared to sell,” said Bob Riley, the director of economic development for the Kingman Airport Authority. “It has to be a cash sale. There won’t be terms.”
Heldman proposes making a down payment followed by weekly $1 million payments until $1 billion is paid. That would be roughly 1,000 weekly million-dollar payments minus the down payment – equal to 19 years and two months.
Riley also said the $1 billion figure is “just a number they threw out there.” Because of its status as a public airport, selling the property – whether in its entirety or piecemeal – is a tedious, time-consuming and expensive proposition.
The property must be appraised to determine its fair market value, which is the required selling price, according to state and federal laws regarding the disposition of public property.
Riley said Heldman mentioned his plan to purchase the airport, but he noted the Kingman Airport Authority has been shut out of talks with city officials.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “A lot of due diligence needs to be done.”
Executive Director French got in the last word. They, too, focused on the FAA and its rules. “Let’s just say somebody did buy the airport for a billion dollars. You know where that money goes, don’t you? To the Kingman Airport Authority,” he said.
“Every penny of it has to be spent on the airport. It wouldn’t go to pay for streets or anything. I don’t know what we’d do with all that money, except build a big, beautiful airport.”