January 18, 2006

LaVerne Surely to Lose Air Desert Pacific: Flight School Moving to Chino

By Marianne Love, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Calif.

Jan. 18--LA VERNE One of the largest flight schools operating at a county-owned airport is about to fly the coop.

Air Desert Pacific, which operated up to 42 planes and trained hundreds of student pilots at Brackett Airport in La Verne since 1987, will move all its operations to Chino Airport in the next two months, company officials said.

The school, which has 25 employees, accounts for about 80 percent of Brackett's air traffic, according to ADP president Ari Lapin. About 177,000 arrivals and departures were logged at Brackett in 2004-05, according to county records.

Lapin said the school couldn't come to an agreement with the airport management company over renewing the lease.

Lapin said he hadn't wanted to move from Brackett, where he started 18 years ago with one airplane, despite what he said was a 25 percent monthly rent increase.

"Our lease expired in September and we initiated negotiations three months before that," Lapin said. "It took until December until we received a draft lease from American Airports, which we signed without amendment. A month later, American Airports rejected their own lease saying the wording wasn't right."

Lapin said he made a quick decision to move to Chino when a flight school there left, giving him an opening.

Kris Thabit, president of Santa Monica-based American Airports, which manages Brackett and four other county-owned airports, said he was surprised to learn the ADP flight school was leaving.

Thabit said the school's lease renewal is awaiting approval by the county's Board of Supervisors.

"We don't understand why they are leaving," Thabit said. "We haven't changed or (gone) back to them with any changes. When we made an agreement with ADP we were thrilled and thought we had a deal with a tenant that would be here for five years with a five-year option and thought everyone was happy with the arrangement."

ADP is not the only business to leave Brackett in the past few months, airport officials said.

Sky Doc, which does annual physical exams for pilots, left for Diamond Bar, and Runway 37, another flight school, relocated to Cable Airport in Upland.

Mt. San Antonio College's aeronautics program remains at Brackett, but NAI, a maintenance and repair business, may leave since it received from airport officials on Dec. 28 a 30-day notice to quit.

Randy Clark, president of NAI formerly Nostalgia Airways Inc. said he is negotiating with American Airports to renew his lease at Brackett.

Clark said he doesn't want to leave Brackett because 95 percent of his customers are still based there.

"I'd lose a big chunk of business. It would be like starting all over again," Clark said. "It's like a ghost town around here now," Clark said of the effect of the business departures. "It feels like the days after 9/11 when everything was shut down because of the terrorists attacks."

Airport users said they fear reduced usage of the airport could result in staff cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors and air traffic controllers.

Thabit said he didn't know how the move would affect flight tower employees since that is run by a different entity. He also said no American Airports employees have been laid off because of ADP's departure.


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