Advertiser, Lafayette, Louisiana
Landry Airport Comes Under Scrutiny
OPELOUSAS — A St.
Landry Parish police juror and an airport fixed wing operator said that poor
policy by the airport authority is creating an atmosphere of lax maintenance at
the St. Landry Parish Ahart Field Airport near Opelousas.
Their accusation comes in light of a request by the St. Landry Parish Economic
and Industrial Development District that parish President-elect Don Menard come
to the board’s December meeting to discuss the status of the Opelousas
Grass is being allowed to grow too tall before it is cut, and farm equipment is
left lying around, said aviator Bradley Vidrine and District 1 Police Juror
Bruce Boudreaux. The airport is in District 1.
On Tuesday, a broken-down tractor was removed from the taxiway after sitting on
the pavement for almost two months, Vidrine said. Federal and state regulations
prohibit the parking of even an airplane on taxiways, Vidrine said, yet the
tractor and other equipment remained.
The SLEIDD board said that it believes the low status of the airport is hurting
“It is important to economic development that we have a decent
airport,” said board member Betty Walker. “I know the Peninsula
Gaming people (who are building Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino in Opelousas) are not happy. The airport seems to have a difficult time cutting the grass
— there are rocks on the runway that can be sucked into the (aircraft)
“I’d like to know what his awareness level is, what his plans
are,” Walker said of Menard.
Boudreaux has been complaining about high grass at the airport for months. He
said that the Airport Authority’s practice of allowing a hay farmer to
harvest the grass instead of paying for someone to cut it is in direct conflict
with the airport’s mission.
“The grass has to grow high to cut for hay,” Boudreaux said.
“I’m glad SLEIDD is looking into it. I’ve been upset for
months with the way things are being done at that airport.”
Bradley Vidrine said that he agrees. He is the owner and operator of Acadiana
Fixed Wing, one of two fixed base operators at the airport. The other FBO is
Most High Aviation, a firm that also serves as the airport manager of record.
“The hay farmer’s interests and the interests of the airport are in
direct opposition. He wants the grass to grow high enough to make hay, and
airport regulations say it has to be down to eight to 10 inches,” Vidrine
said. Grass along the sides of taxiways often grows so high that pilots taxiing
planes cannot see the runway, he said.
“The problems in airport maintenance are a direct responsibility of the
airport manager,” Vidrine said.
Vidrine said that he has a problem with the airport authority naming Most High
Aviation as the airport manager.
“How can the authority appoint my competitor as the airport
manager,” he asked.
“He does that at no cost to the airport authority,” said Darryl
Wagley of Most High Aviation owner Terry Myers. Wagley recently resigned from
the authority to free more personal time on his schedule. “It’s
been a tradition for the FBO to serve as airport manager. He works with the
authority in keeping up the grounds.”
“I have no comment on any particular issue at this time,” Myers
said Wednesday. “But if they have any concerns, they can bring them up at
the airport authority meetings, which is open to the public. As airport
manager, I do not have an operating budget. All of that is controlled by the