FAA looking at potential Petaluma airport violations

Because the airport receives federal funds, it must comply with FAA rules.|

Federal authorities say the Petaluma Municipal Airport may be violating agreements that regulate who can perform mechanical work on aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given Petaluma 60 days from Jan. 6 to respond with documents related to those potential violations.

The investigation stems from a 2022 complaint by an independent aircraft mechanic, John Fluno of San Anselmo. Fluno said his civil rights were violated when he was banned from the airport because he did not have permission to work there.

The FAA dismissed the complaint that Fluno’s civil rights were violated, but said the airport’s rules governing who can service aircraft may be “inappropriate” and limit economic competition by requiring pilots to contract only with on-site mechanics.

Those rules are known as minimum standards. As Petaluma Municipal Airport’s are written, they apply to factors including the number of parking spaces that mechanics located at the airport must have, and the size of their lots and buildings.

Mangon Aircraft, one of two aircraft repair and service companies that are airport tenants, has opposed previous proposals to allow independent aircraft mechanics to work at the airport at 601 Sky Ranch Dr., Petaluma.

Because the airport receives federal grant funding, it must comply with certain requirements — and may not be in compliance currently, the FAA said in a Jan. 6 letter to Dan Cohen, who manages Petaluma’s airport and marina.

The airport received $847,899 in Airport Improvement Funds between 2018 and 2021, City Manager Peggy Flynn said last Friday. In fiscal year 2023, Petaluma received a combined $1,093,000 in Airport Improvement Program and FAA grants.

Armed with the FAA letter, critics of the airport regulations Cohen is charged with enforcing tried to get the issue placed on the Feb. 2 agenda of the Petaluma Airport Commission meeting. But Cohen said that because it concerned an ongoing investigation it would not be heard, even though the commission’s chairperson, Jeffrey Domich, wanted it on the agenda.

“We’re right in the middle of this process and … the city’s not going to put this matter on the commission agenda at this time as an open discussion item,” Cohen said at Thursday’s meeting. “However, any member of the public is welcome to request a copy of that letter and also the city’s response, which we’ll be providing very soon.”

Domich said he believes the airport is not in compliance with federal regulations and needs to fix that — and that the matter should have been on the agenda.

“The concern is that this issue directly relates to the purview of the airport commission. The commission is the body that knows the most about this issue and has the most to offer the city in order to get into compliance,” he said.

FAA officials did not respond to a request for comment.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 707-521-5412 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jeremyhay

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.