Judge Will Rule On Control Of Charlotte Airport Next Week

Oct 10, 2014

The Charlotte airport commission has been meeting, since a state law formed it last year, but it has no power, while the lawsuit runs its course.
Credit Ben Bradford / WFAE

The State of North Carolina faced off against the City of Charlotte in court today, once again, about who should control Charlotte-Douglas airport. A decision in the more-than-a-year-long case is imminent.

The city council has overseen the airport’s operation for eight decades, but state lawmakers put a new airport commission in charge in mid-2013. The city sued and a judge granted an injunction, leaving the city in charge and the newly created commission powerless.

The fight is over who will control the airport; the court case is more technical.

“A person doesn’t get to operate the country’s eighth largest commercial airport until the FAA says they can,” said Jim Phillips of Greensboro law firm Brooks Pierce, representing the city.

The city argues state lawmakers never got the FAA’s approval, pre-empting the federal agency’s authority to regulate flight, and violating the state’s constitution. Phillips said, if the law required that permission before appointing the commission, he would have to come up with a different case.

The state Attorney General’s Office argues the city is claiming a technicality, which should not stop the law’s effect. Judge Robert Ervin froze the case nearly a year ago, leaving it to the FAA to issue an opinion over who should take control. It has refused to pick a winner, so the judge said he will rule early next week.