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Sent: Friday, July 10, 2015 9:30 AM
To: Nat Birdsong; JP Powell; Pete Chichetto; Brad Dantzler; Steven Hunnicutt; Deric Feacher; Leo Treggi
Subject: Proposed City ordinances for the Winter Haven Municipal Airport

I have reviewed the draft copies of the proposed City Ordinances for the Winter Haven Municipal Airport that were received by the Winter Haven Pilot’s Association last week and am voicing my strong opposition to the enactment of these ordinances.

I’m an Airline Transport rated pilot, a retired airline captain, and a multi-engine and instrument rated flight instructor with 18,000 flight hours.  I’ve been flying for 50 years, have been a flight instructor for 40 years, and am a graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School.  This means I have been exposed to a lot of aviation, and have seen many instances where other cities have turned their airports into “Ghost Towns” through exactly the kind of policies that are contained in the proposed ordinances.

The City of Winter Haven has something special at the Winter Haven Airport that is becoming rare across America, and city officials and airport management don’t seem to realize this.  What they have is a relatively large, active and engaged group of pilots and aircraft owners who base their airplanes at the Winter Haven Airport, get together every morning at the airport for coffee, fly out to lunch somewhere at least twice a week, and conduct a great deal of other family oriented activities on the airport.  The proposed ordinances go a long way toward stifling this.  There are over 50 pilots alone who live in the developments adjacent to the airport, and these, along with all of the other pilots who base their airplanes at the Winter Haven Airport are the people who would be negatively impacted by the implementation of these Ordinances.

Most airports across America the size of Winter Haven have essentially become “Ghost Towns” as city managements that know nothing about general aviation enact restrictive ordinances like this one (generally when they have a new airport manager who wants to show his bosses that he is “doing something”), ignore their real customer base in their “pie in the sky” dream of bringing businesses onto the airport, raise hangar rent, and end up with their primary customers (the folks to own airplanes, rent hangars at the airport, and who fly out of the airport) selling their airplanes and quitting flying, or moving their airplanes to another airport, or moving out of the area entirely, while their “pie in the sky” dreams of bringing big businesses onto the airport never happen (there is a 20 year history at the Winter Haven Airport that shows exactly this).  This kind of stuff is a big reason why there are 200,000 fewer pilots in America today than there were in 1980.

The proposed Ordinances are flawed in many areas, and so vague in meaning in other areas that the consequences of their implementation are totally unclear.  Any ordinances should be very clear in their intent and meaning, not the vague language contained in the proposed ordinances.  The badge requirement, the restrictions on access to the airport, and the vehicle restrictions are worst of the many bad items contained in these proposed ordinances, and will very like result in the end of the many family oriented activities that the pilots at the Winter Haven Airport have enjoyed for literally decades, and will also result in the end of the Winter Haven Airport as a general aviation airport with any pilot based activities whatsoever.  We were told that all of the restrictions can be waived as needed so that the pilot group can continue to do their functions.  This is not an acceptable way to operate, because what we can then do depends on the “whim” of airport management, and it is a system that is ripe for the abuses of favoritism and retaliation.

The proposed ordinances look like they are “boiler plate” language pulled off of the internet, are far a much larger airport like Orlando Executive, and are not appropriate for an airport of the size and type of the Winter Haven Airport.  This is especially true concerning the badge restriction.  The badge restriction is what you would expect from a larger airport that has scheduled airline service with the associated TSA requirements that go along with such service.

I don’t know what “vision” current airport management has for the airport, but it seems to follow along the lines of changing the Winter Haven Airport into an airport like Orlando Executive with a control tower, lots of restrictions and controls on activities on the airport and on access to the airport, and that this will somehow be attractive to, and bring businesses onto the airport, while at the same time not impacting the airplane owners who base their airplanes on the airplane.  The chances of bringing any businesses onto the airport are minimal.  The airport does not have the facilities in terms of runway length, instrument approaches, maintenance and many other areas to attract businesses.  Businesses that are seeking to locate on airport properties are looking at airports like Lakeland Regional or Kissimmee, not Winter Haven.  The result of this vision will probably be the loss of what Winter Haven really has, which is the active pilot base, there will not be any be any businesses that come to the Winter Haven Airport, and the Winter Haven Airport could easily become what I earlier defined as a “Ghost Town” airport.  Concerning bringing businesses onto the airport property, the City of Winter Haven as gone down this same road several times in the past 20 years, with predictable results each time, and I hate to think that city management is drinking that Kool Aid again.

My “vision” is that the City of Winter Haven promote it’s airport as a general aviation airport with an active and strong pilot base, implement changes and policies that enhance and promote the activities of its various pilot groups, that a good flight school like we used to have with Tailwheels, Etc, be brought back to the airport, and that the Winter Haven Airport reach it’s full potential as a great general aviation airport.  Personally I like my “vision” a lot better then the negative outcome “vision” that goes along with the proposed Airport City Ordinances,

I fervently hope that the Winter Haven City Council and City government strongly reject these proposed ordinances.

Dennis L. Downing
Major, USAF Retired
Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor
USAF Test Pilot School Class 79A
Winter Haven Airport, Building 50, Hangar 6


I know people people are less likely to read an email that is too long.  In order to keep the basic body of this email from becoming too long, more detailed comments and objections concerning the Proposed City ordinances for the Winter Haven Municipal Airport are in this addendum as detailed below.

The Winter Haven Airport does not have a control tower so the references to the control tower or Aircraft Movement Area are incorrect.  The FARs are very clear in that they allow an aircraft without an electrical system or radios to operate at non-towered airports.  The proposed ordinances prohibit an aircraft from operating at the Winter Haven Airport without radio communications.  This specific restriction in the ordinance restricts what the FAA considers a legitimate aviation activity, and a pilot who was cited under this part of the ordinance would have a legitimate reason to file a complaint to the FAA concerning Winter Havens failure to follow it’s obligations under the Grant Assurances Program.

Many of the hangar tenants are building airplanes in their hangars.  Do the Ordinances restrictions on not having a “registered” airplane in the hangars or doing maintenances in the hangars mean the intent is prohibit folks from building homebuilt/experimental aircraft in their hangars?

Do the restrictions on maintenance mean that someone who has built an airplane will not be allowed to do maintenance on his or her airplane in their hangar (as allowed by the FARs), or that an owner of a certified airplane won’t be allowed to do the maintenance on his airplane (the maintenance that the FARs allow an owner to do) in his or her hangar?

Do the restrictions on aircraft parking mean that folks who fly into the airport for the picnics and other activies that the Winter Haven Pilot’s Association have in the picnic area just south of building 120 (The Grove) won’t be able to park their airplanes in the grass alongside the taxiway adjacent to “the Grove” as has been done for decades.

Does the requirement to have a badge to be on the airport, along with all of the other restrictions concerning access to the airport mean that there will be restrictions or who can come to the various activities that the various pilots group do on the airport?  I find this badge requirement to be the most onerous of all of the items, and it alone will could very well result in the demise of all of the family type activities, like that July 4th picnic, that make the Winter Haven Airport the unique place it currently has in general aviation.

Do the restrictions on the access of vehicles to, or the operation of vehicles or bicycles in the Airport Operating Area (AOA, which is defined as anywhere inside the fence) mean I can be arrested for riding my bicycle from my hangar to the bathroom, or that access to the airport will be so restrictive that the picnics and many other social activities that have been done for decades on the airport will become a thing of the past?  Do the restrictions on parking mean that I can’t park my car next to my hangar when I take my airplane out for a quick flight, or that I will no longer be allowed to park in “the Grove”?


MessageType: Praise
Subject: website
Username: Bernice
Date: 19 Apr 2014


You do a great job of keeping us in touch with the info the City gives you.  thank you for being there for all of us

MessageType: Suggestion
Excessive Hangar rents--Gilbert Field
Jack Sellet
8 Jul 2012


Debbie, if you will recall, in our last AIRPORT ADVISORY COMMMITTEE meeting when I took issue with the study published about hangar rents at our neighboring local airports and gave you a a printed sheet I had obtained at Sebring (KSEF), you said I had to give it to you in writing.

So, here it is. Copy of the information I presented at the last meeting is ATTACHED. Note that Sebring does not have a control tower, as stated in your report, and that their rents are considerably less than what was reported. Also note the additional services they provide their tenants.

In addition I checked Avon Park for hanger rent via the internet and their hangars rent from $156.51 to 173.91--again considerably less that what was stated in your report. Also, I called Kissimmee and had no trouble getting a quote ($299.00 monthly) for a hangar. Your report had indicated that information was not available. And note that Kissimmee is a "gateway" airport to Orlando and Disney with a control tower and numerous other services.

My point being that the published report on rents at other local airports in this area was grossly misleading.

Currently, you advised in our June report for GIF, that we have 34 empty hangars on Gilbert field. Our closest neighbor, Bartow, has a waiting list! One of the reasons I heard that we have so many empty hangars is that all the 'snow birds' have went north. Do you not believe that Bartow and our other neighboring airports also have 'snowbirds'?

Bottom line, rents for our hangars in Winter Haven are excessive and not competitive and that is why we have so many empty hangars!

And, while I'm at it, I have to mention one other point that is bothering me---I noted that a HOVA rep was not present at that first meeting I attended. I hope that was not an indication of their interest in our AIRPORT ADVISORY COMMMITTEE. If it is,--- well enough said.

Jack Sellet, Member AAC

Message Type: Suggestion
Subject: Oshkosh 365
User Email:
Date: 10 Nov 2009


Tell the guys to post their fly in info at might get them more fly in company ! Hope you have good weather !

Message Type: Praise
Subject: The web site is great!
Username: Kelley Clark
Date: 24 Jan 2009


Thank you for sending me the email to remind me of the web address for this wonderful resource. I am excited to see the positive changes that have occurred recently.

Message Type: Suggestion
Subject: Sign me up
Username: Tom Oldt
Date: 13 Jan 2009


Great to have a site

From: William Maynard
10 Jan 2009


The new string of hangars need lighting on the south side. At night it is very dark. Ligts might stop some from breaking into the new hangars.
We have finally got Teco to repair all of the lights that were out.
Bill Maynard

Message Type: Praise
web site
Dennis Kochan
10 Jan 2009


I think that you have done a fantastic job with this web site and I believe it will help with our initiative. I have already seen a change in the cities attitude toward our list of safety concerns. We will be discussing other issues with Dale Smith very soon.

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