Cumberland Times-News

Columns

January 19, 2014

No autocross?

Let’s hope our senators can straighten this out

Airport officials have asked U.S. senators from Maryland and West Virginia for help in the matter of a Federal Aviation Adminstration grant that apparently comes with strings attached that would preclude autosports events from being held at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport.

On one side of the issue is a $2.3 million FAA grant for runway rehabilitation. On the other side is the autocross event that’s been held at the airport for the last 11 years by National Road Autosport.

This is a first-class event, and it has brought our area recognition, good will on the part of the participants and plenty of tourist-related dollars.

The Potomac Highlands Airport Authority has informed National Road Autosport that having autosport events at the airport would go against FAA guidelines for issuing the runway grant.

“If it’s not related to aviation, then it can’t happen,” said airport manaager Ryan Shaffer.

The authority says that in no way has it decided it doesn’t want the autocross here. So it has asked U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Benjamin Cardin (Md.) for help clarifying the matter.

As National Road Autosport president John Felten has said, other airports around the country host autosports. Gregg Honeycutt, one of the racers associated with our autocross, said it has never impacted airport operations here.

Sanderson Field in Shelton, Wash., is one airport that hosts numerous autosports events each year — some of them sponsored by employees of the Boeing Company, one of the world’s premier aircraft manufacturers.

Each year, the Northwest Auto Sports Association holds a “Drive to Survive, Come Home Alive” weekend at the Port of Astoria Airport in Warrenton, Ore. Professional and amateur racers, as well as police agencies, firefighters, safety agencies and local businesses conduct a program its website says is designed to “instill real world behind the wheel experience in young drivers in a controlled environment.”

We like having the autocross here. We also would like to see the runway at our airport rehabilitated.

Hopefully, it’s a matter our senators can help straighten out, and not another case of a federal bureaucrat arbitrarily deciding what’s best for us.

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