An article in yesterday's editions reported incorrectly that the Federal Aviation Administration has opened contracts held by Page Airways at National and Dulles Airports to competitive bidding. Only the contract at National Airport is affected. The following are corrections of certain statements made in articles concerning Page Airways Inc., Wilmorite Inc. and J.P. Wilmot published during the past year. There is no ongoing dispute between the FAA and Page with respect to an FAA audit of Page's contracts at Dulles and National airport's, as stated in our article. In fact, the matter was settled in February 1975. Page has set aside $9 million with a court to cover an antitrust judgment against it, pending the outcome of its appeal. It is not preparing itself to make such a payment and, therefore, does not have to devote any further funds to this purpose as we suggested. Moreover, the company has paid dividends only once in its corporate history and its not having done so during the past two years is not, as we inferred, necessarily related to its having set aside the above-noted $9 million. Wilmorite was not the recipient of $88 million in federal rent subsidies as reported. It was neither an applicant for, nor a direct beneficiary of, these funds. It only contracted with the recipient to build apartment buildings for which it was paid $16,500,000 to cover the costs of construction. The Post reported that Page's National and Dulles airport contracts were awarded in violation of federal competitive bidding policy. We have been informed by some FAA officials that exceptions to the general competitive bidding requirements are permissible, if certain sole source criteria are satisfied and that they believe these criteria were satisfied in Page's case. There is no indication that the FAA decision to extend the Page contracts without rebidding was the product of improper activity by Page or its employes.
The Federal Aviation Administration, stung by charges of financial irregularities and mismanagement, has decided to seek bids for the first time in 11 years for a lucrative airplane fuel and maintenance contract at Washington National and Dulles Airports.
FAA officials said yesterday the agency sent out 80 invitations to private companies earlier this week to bid on the contract, which has been held by Page Airways Inc. of Rochester, N.Y., since 1968 and has been extended at least five times since then without public bidding.
The FAA's own auditors had accused the agency of violating government regulations and policies in extending the contract, which is worth about $10 million in annual business.
The auditors have also charged that the FAA failed to collect between $686,000 and $2 million in fees that Page owed the agency under the terms of the contract. The company has challenged the findings of the audit.
The contract is also being scrutinized in a separate audit by the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA. The department is examining several other contracts with car rental and parking lot firms that were extended without bids at the two federally-run airports.
The Page contract grants the company the exclusive right to sell fuel, other petroleum products and maintenance and repair services to the hundreds of small corporate and personal aircraft that use the two airports.
The contract also allows the company to operate air taxi and charter services and to sell aircraft at the airport.
Clyde Bingman, financial management chief at Dulles, said that besides the direct mailing to 80 companies, the agency has placed an ad in a Chicago trade publication and sent copies of its invitation to bid to professional airline organizations.
Bingman said Page, whose controversial owner, James P. Wilmot, is a major contributor to Democratic Party causes, will be eligible to bid on the new contract.
FAA officials say they expect to award the contract by January and expect it to go into effect March 1, 1980. In the meantime, Page's contract has been extended again to cover the interim period.
Bingman said he was one of four FAA finance specialists assigned within the last two months to revamp FAA bidding practices.
FAA officials had pledged in July to open contracts to competitive bidding following a Washington Post report that revealed the critical audits.