A day less than a year after the Department of Public Works began to take over the operation of five county-owned airports from a private contractor, the Supervisory Board’s Supervisory Board received a progress report and vision uncertain of what awaits us.
Paul Maselbas, assistant deputy director of the Aviation Division of the LA County Department of Public Works, presented a comprehensive but not yet complete statistical report covering the less than a year period in which the county department and the former contractor were in various stages of transition, including office management, mixed staff and staff assignments, refueling operations and general maintenance, among others.
In response to questions from Airports Commission Chairman Curt Castagna, Maselbas said the actual turnover officially only took place on August 20 and 21 and that even now some financial negotiations were underway with contractor American Airports.
The revenue projections presented considering an operating surplus/deficit line item chart appear to suggest county assumptions about achieving savings by bringing in overstated full in-house management.
Regarding refueling operations, commissioners learned that since taking over from the contractor, county airports have been losing money every month, while trying to sell avgas cheaper. DPW’s hourly labor costs were cited as one of the causes of the fuel pricing and service imbalance, as was the fact that the county had to rent tanker trucks for some airports when the entrepreneur left.
In the closing public comment segment of the virtual meeting, a caller told the commission that the price of avgas was $1 a gallon cheaper at airports outside of Los Angeles County. He cited Chino airport as an example.
Deputy Division Chief Jason Morgan’s Monthly Airport Operations and Fuel Sales Reports showed fuel sales at the county’s five airports rose 10% in May from the same period a year ago. , and take-offs and landings at the four airports with control towers to record data were also up 10% year-over-year.
Maselbas said the long-term concern for the airport system is what might happen if the county’s airport system’s deficit trend isn’t reversed over the next decade. Some measures are already underway or expected to be soon, including greater attention to the removal of non-aeronautical users from hangars, the ejection of non-operational or abandoned aircraft from hangar storage, updating tariff surveys and fees and outsourcing of refueling services.
The Commission does not meet in July. Its next meeting will be on August 31.