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Airport's outlook: Continues to operate without current license

By By Robbie Byrd and Brian Blackley, Staff Writers
Aviation officials announced Friday that they would not be renewing the license for Atmore Municipal Airport, along with licenses for seven other state airports, including Bay Minette.
All eight remain open and in operation today without current licensing, but state officials warn that they must make needed improvements or face closure.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said the city is working to correct the problem as quickly as possible, however he cites funding and grants as the primary stalling factor.
Officials said the city has 360 days to fix the problem, however the city can apply for an additional 360 day extension.
Shell said the state cited an 8-foot tall statue in the nearby Perpetual Care cemetery, as well as a drainage ditch that runs alongside the runway are the states major causes for concern.
The city has applied for grants through the Federal Aviation Administration and Alabama Department of Transportation to cover the ditch and have the statue moved.
Bolkert Engineering, a Mobile planning and engineering company, prepared a correction plan for the city, which it plans to present along with its grant applications.
However, if city officials preemptively make any of the necessary changes to the airport before getting the grant, monies spent would be out of pocket.
According to authorities with the airport, the statue and drainage ditches have not brought pilot complaints or any problems with takeoffs and landings.
Said a spokesperson for airport administrator Robert Earl Godwin, "Pilots have been complimentary of the statue of Jesus that is in the cemetery (at the north end of the runway)," the spokesperson said. "They have assured us,
when it has come up, that it's nice to know that Jesus is watching over them when they are taking off and landing."
The statue stands about eight feet high and is located nearly 100 yards from the north end of the runway.
No collisions or crashes have occurred at the Atmore Municipal Airport related to the condition of the airport in recent memory, an airport official said.
The Aeronautics division of the DOT licenses 78 public airports, 56 heliports and 125 private airports. Airports are inspected annually.
According to published reports only nineteen of the state's 72 general aviation airports, like the city of Atmore's, do not fully comply with state and federal aviation laws. Officials say 60 percent of the small airports have some type of runway obstruction, usually trees.
Roughly 90 percent of the cost of changes will come from the FAA.