The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday will take another shot at dumping a longtime operator of maintenance at John Wayne Airport while continuing business with another.
Spurred by allegations of Brown Act violations, the supervisors at their last meeting on Feb. 14 decided to just rescind their vote for the two new contracts to eliminate any controversy. On Jan. 24, the supervisors voted to award “fixed base operator” contracts to Atlantic Aviation and ACI JET.
The odd operator out — Signature Flight Support — threatened litigation. Signature and Atlantic have been longtime fixed base operators at the airport.
Fuel prices from the national chains have sparked controversy at the airport with some of the smaller private jet owners complaining the two big companies are not producing enough competition to drive down the cost of gas. Another complain has been that large-volume operators were getting discounts not available to other customers who don’t buy as much gas.
“There is no question the large customers of these chains are treated extremely well,” Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson told City News Service. “It’s all these behind-the-curtain, negotiated, hyper-incentivized fuel prices based on volume and regularity, so they get a better deal.”
Even if just a small fraction of the plane owners are affected it doesn’t matter, Nelson said.
“Look, I have a duty to every customer at the airport,” Nelson said. “I understand every customer who comes in isn’t (a fixed base operator’s) customer, but they are all mine.”
Nelson said he supported renewing Atlantic’s contract because executives acknowledged the issues and vowed to work on them.
“One of these (vendors) made it clear they were going to make efforts to correct it and that they understand it’s an issue and will be better citizens going forward, while one of the groups openly argued it’s a red herring and they don’t need to fix it,” Nelson said.
Signature executives have complained to the Federal Aviation Administration and have threatened litigation.
In July 2015, the board asked the airport director to seek requests for proposals for two Fixed Base Operators at JWA.
Last September, requests for qualifications were issued and eight companies responded, including incumbents Signature Flight Support and Atlantic Aviation.
Fixed base operators provide multiple services such as hangar rentals, mechanical maintenance and fueling.
Signature Flight Support had the best score, followed by Atlantic Aviation, so airport staff initially recommended awarding interim leases to those national companies, which were already in operation at JWA.
The plan was to award interim leases while airport officials work on a longer-term general plan that would again open up competition for fixed base operators.
The supervisors voted unanimously last month to award Atlantic Aviation one of the interim leases, and 4-1, with Bartlett in opposition, for ACI JET, which is headquartered in San Luis Obispo.
—City News Service
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