More than seven weeks after United Airlines canceled its flights out of Palmdale, Los Angeles World Airports announced Monday that it plans to surrender its federal certification to operate Palmdale Regional Airport as a commercial facility.
Mike Molina, an L.A. World Airports spokesman, said that maintaining the certificate no longer makes sense given the economic recession and the difficulty developing air service in the high-desert city, where eight airlines have come and gone since 1971. United departed Dec. 7 after operating at Palmdale for 18 months.
Should the opportunity arise to provide air service in the future, Molina said, Los Angeles World Airports can easily reapply to the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to operate at Palmdale. The FAA requires that certain conditions be met before a certificate is granted, such as runway inspections, adequate staffing and emergency preparedness plans.
In addition to Palmdale, Los Angeles World Airports operates Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, the world's busiest general aviation facility. Palmdale has been certified for commercial flights for almost 38 years.
Because a substantial effort has been made to develop Palmdale airport, L.A. World Airports officials contend that pulling out of the airport for now will not violate a 2005 court settlement that requires the agency to pursue a policy of regionalism -- spreading the growth in air travel to airports across Southern California to relieve congestion at LAX.
Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said the loss of certification should not interfere with the city's plans to take over the agency's leases with the U.S. Air Force and assume responsibility for attracting carriers to the airport.
The terminal, the parking lot and aprons sit on 60 acres of Air Force property.
Ledford said Monday that the city can seek FAA certification on its own and that the Air Force plans to send L.A. World Airports a letter outlining its position on the transfer of leases to the city. He said he hopes the military will clear the way for the city's eventual takeover of the airport.