Tension was in the air at the Wilmington International Airport Authority board meeting Wednesday night, as pilots grilled board members about a federal lawsuit filed against its members.
The suit, filed by ISO Aero Service in April, lays out an account of discriminatory practices committed by airport officials-- Airport Director Julie Wilsey, Deputy Director Gary Broughton and the Airport Authority-- the company claims for the sole purpose of putting them out of business, in order to benefit their competitor, Air Wilmington.
They wanted to know why it was kept a secret.
"This new revelation has not been discussed at any public meeting and I have attended every public meeting the past year and a half," pilot Monte Coughlin said to the board. "There's been no information publicly about this, yet you have retained attorney services from an outside firm in Raleigh."
County Attorney Wanda Copley confirmed outside attorneys have been hired, but she said that isn't uncommon, and no taxpayer dollars were used to secure them.
Coughlin also asked if the FAA or the North Carolina State Association of Airports had been notified of the suit, and Copley said they had not, because the board didn't have an obligation to do so. Gary Broughton is the president of the NCSAA.
Board Vice Chairmen Carter Lambeth told Coughlin he thinks the lawsuit isn't true.
"We're in a lawsuit we didn't start—I'm an attorney, I've read the complaint I cannot comment it but I will say it's a bunch of bologna," Lambeth said.
Pilot Thomas Goodwin told the board he believes certain private pilots have lost a place at ILM, and said he thinks the lawsuit does have good points.
"I do know for a fact that the business was prevented from crossing the runway, if you can't do that you can't be competitive," Goodwin said. "I think there are some merits in the lawsuit, but we will just have to see how it plays out."
Pilot Chris Stephens said they've found transparency to be an issue when it comes to the Airport Authority, but ultimately, he just wants them to pay more attention to general aviation.
"We have a vibrant commercial aviation, we have a vibrant business aviation, but for the smaller piston recreational and small aircraft, we really don't have the facilities other airports have," added Stephens.
Airport Director Julie Wilsey said she thinks the pilots were just grand-standing.
"Wow, I'm an engineer and that just doesn't work," Goodwin said. "That's not what we were doing and quite frankly I take offense to that."
Wilsey said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit.
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