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The Journal Gazette

  • Solberg 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017 1:00 am

Trump's visits hurt airports in vicinity

DAVID PORTER | Associated Press

READINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Thor Solberg's business is down – try practically nonexistent – at a time when it's usually way up, and he has President Donald Trump to thank for it.

Federal aviation regulations have essentially closed down Solberg's small airport in western New Jersey because it is within 10 miles of where Trump is spending 17 days this month at his Bedminster country club. More than a dozen other airports also face restrictions.

This is high season for small airports that cater to amateur fliers and business clients. But at Solberg-Hunterdon Airport, which averages about 100 combined takeoffs and landings per day, a handful of planes sat idle Monday. Normally 70 to 80 planes would be paying to be housed there and paying for fuel and flight training time, Solberg said.

“Twenty percent of our annual business is affected by the president's visits in the summertime because that's how much of our business takes place on the weekends in the summertime,” Solberg said.

Small airports and aviation-related businesses near Trump's properties in Florida and New Jersey have lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in business already this year. And they have no recourse other than to appeal to the Secret Service, which oversees presidential security.

That proved unsuccessful for the owners of a small Florida airport that lies within the no-fly zone near Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. In March, the Secret Service told the tenants of Lantana Airport that aircraft couldn't take off from the facility, which is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago. The 28 businesses at the airport include a flight school and banner operation. They said they were losing thousands of dollars each time Trump visited.

Jonathan Miller, the contractor who operates the airport, told The Associated Press earlier this year that a helicopter company opted to move elsewhere rather than deal with the airport closures, taking an estimated $440,000 in annual rent and fuel payments with it.