Members of Palm Beach County’s airport advisory board have said that they will continue to fight the flight restrictions imposed every weekend when President Donald Trump visits his Florida-based Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump has been to the location frequently since his inauguration, with business owners at local airports claiming combined losses of up to US$15,000 for each trip.
The restrictions involve a ring of 10 nautical miles around Mar-a-Lago, within which pilots of non-commercial private passenger planes are barred from landing at Palm Beach International Airport and also Palm Beach Country Park Airport, commonly known as Lantana.
An exception is granted if the aircraft has arrived from a ‘gateway’ airport, where it has been screened by the Transportation Safety Administration. Any plane landing at Lantana cannot leave until after Trump is gone, with further restrictions imposed on flight training, parachute jumps, sightseeing and maintenance tests.
Bruce Pelly, country airports director, said that the US Secret Service has made clear that the restrictions are non-negotiable, but is hopeful that they could be relaxed as federal agents become more familiar with the area. Steve Hedges, a regional manager of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), shares the same opinion, adding that exceptions were made for airports in Washington DC that faced financial hardship in the wake of flight restrictions imposed after September 11.
But while some businesses in Florida are affected negatively as a result of Trump’s visits, others have benefited. Witham Field, an airport in Martin County, is reporting an increase in diverted air traffic and revenues – taking an additional 100-150 aircraft for every Trump visit, according to George Stokus, airport manager. Fuel sales have increased at the location, with FBOs Atlantic Aviation and Stuart Jet Center also said to be benefiting.