National and Washington Dulles International airports should be controlled by a Virginia state agency, according to some members of the Holton Commission, the panel charged with arranging the transfer of responsibility for the two airports from federal authority.
Virginia's governor would name members to the regional airport agency under such an arrangement, and Maryland and District officials would recommend members from their jurisdictions, commission members said yesterday.
There are "a number of advantages" in having a Virginia agency run the airports, said a report to the commission that was released yesterday by investment bankers. One advantage is that the transfer from the Federal Aviation Administration would have to be approved only by Congress and the Virginia General Assembly under such a plan, according to a report by Salomon Brothers Inc. and Wheat, First Securities Inc.
If a regional authority, rather than a state authority, took over the airports, approval also would have to come from governing bodies in Maryland and the District.
"Promptness of action in day-to-day operations, budgets and undertaking capital projects is more likely to occur with a Virginia entity," said the investment bankers, acting as consultants to the commission.
In the past, Maryland and District officials have said they feared that if the airports were run by a Virginia agency with members from outside the state, Virginia elected officials could find a way to remove them or dilute their power. Virginia officials have said they deserve more spots on the authority because of the airports' location in the state.
But some commission officials said yesterday they think the Virginia agency may be the best solution.
Airport executives from New York and Cincinnati told the commission at a meeting yesterday that it would have a tough job keeping the peace among competing jurisdictions.
"If you had Plato and Machiavelli . . . and Jefferson drafting a plan , you wouldn't have a perfect policy," said Patrick Falvey, general counsel of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs three airports there.
Officials of the Greater Cincinnati International Airport say they've overcome inter-jurisdictional "seething" to run a smooth operation. The airport is located in rural Boone County, Ky., but 95 percent of the airport's travelers are from Ohio. Even so, almost all the airport authority's members, by Kentucky law, come from Kenton County, Ky., and no representatives from Ohio have a vote on the authority.
"I've never heard a single expression of dissatisfaction" from Ohio residents in recent years, said authority chairman William Whitson. Commission officials said one reason the Cincinnati airport representatives were invited was to hint to Maryland officials that they may have to accept a non-voting position on a future airport agency here.
Virginia and District representatives have said that Maryland officials could find themselves in a conflict of interest because the state owns Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which is in competition for passengers with Dulles.
The commission, chaired by ex-Virginia governor A. Linwood Holton Jr., is scheduled to recommend a means of transferring the airports by January.
But airline industry officials say they think Congress will kill any plan that removes National from federal control.