It appears the state takeover of Jackson's airports may not be a done deal. The Federal Aviation Administration clarified its policy on disputed ownership changes in the June 6 edition of the Federal Register. The FAA made it clear that it prefers to approve such transitions when all parties have agreed to the change. However, such is not the case when the Governor signed SB #2162. The FAA said it will not approve such ownership changes until the dispute is settled. The FAA states in the Federal Register:
That is the actual policy (which was not provided by the media). JMAA and Reverend Jeffery Stallworth asked a federal court to block the state takeover of the airport. However, the FAA may approve the change if the courts rule in favor of the state. Then there is the timing of the posting of the FAA policy. One may be forgiven for thinking it is no coincidence that the FAA issued this policy within sixty days after Governor Phil Bryant signed SB #2162. JMAA petitioned the FAA to deny any requests to transfer the FAA certificate to any new governing body's for the airport.
Summary: This document clarifies the FAA's legal authority and policy for addressing disputed changes of sponsorship at federally obligated, publicly owned airports. This document also explains the requirements for state or local government entities to coordinate with the FAA when contemplating actions that may impact an airport's ownership, sponsorship, governance, or operations....
While state or local legislative action, or a judicial action, as the case may be, may seek to change an airport's ownership, sponsorship, governance, or operations, only the FAA has the authority to determine sponsor eligibility, approve and formally change airport sponsorship, and approve and issue a new Airport Operating Certificate pursuant to 14 CFR part 139. The FAA has a statutory obligation to ensure that an airport sponsor/operator is capable of assuming all grant assurances, safety compliance, and other Federal obligations, and has the expertise to operate the airport. Specifically, an airport sponsor/operator must meet the requirements set out in title 49 U.S.C. 44706, as implemented by 14 CFR part 139, for obtaining an Airport Operating Certificate, (if applicable) or in 49 U.S.C. 47102, as implemented by FAA Order 5100.38D (which includes provisions governing sponsor eligibility for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding) and/or 14 CFR part 158 (which governs the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) program pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 40117).
The FAA's obligation extends to reviewing sponsor/operator eligibility when state and local governments propose a change in the airport governance structure to ensure that there is no ambiguity regarding responsibility for Federal obligations and that any proposed changes will not impact compliance with Federal law. (In the event of a local or state dispute regarding sponsorship/operation of the airport, the FAA will apply the policy set out in Section IV below.) If any proposed changes give rise to such concerns by the FAA, the agency will work with state and/or local government(s) to resolve the concerns or, if the concerns cannot be addressed, deny the request.....
Any state or local legislative body or public agency considering whether to take an action, such as drafting legislation, that would impact airport ownership, sponsorship, governance, or operations should (1) consult with and obtain the consent of the current sponsor/operator (absent extraordinary circumstances, such as substantial evidence of mismanagement on the part of the current sponsor/operator);  and (2) request technical assistance from the FAA about the interrelationship between Federal and state or local requirements, and seek the FAA's review and comment as early in the deliberative process as is practicable. A failure to consult may cause FAA to deny a proposed change to airport sponsorship and/or operating authority. In all cases, final decisions regarding the proposed change will be made by FAA's Office of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis.... (it would appear that such consent was not obtained.)
The determination of whether to seek a new applicant for airport sponsorship is a state or local decision. The FAA expects that all disputes about whether to change airport sponsorship and/or operating authority will be resolved through a legally-binding agreement between the parties involved in the dispute or a final, non-reviewable legal decision. While parties should seek technical assistance from the FAA as early as practicable, parties are encouraged to wait until a dispute has been resolved before submitting an application to the FAA seeking the agency's approval of a change in sponsorship of, and/or operational responsibility for, an airport. In matters in which a proposed change is contested by a current sponsor or operator, the FAA will not act on a part 139 application or a change of airport sponsorship and/or operating authority until the dispute is definitively resolved to the satisfaction of the FAA. Resolution may be demonstrated by issuance of a final, non-reviewable judicial decision requiring such a change, by the issuance of a consent letter between the existing airport sponsor and/or operator and the proposed new sponsor and/or operator, or by other legally definitive means deemed acceptable to the FAA.
The FAA will accept an application for a change in airport sponsorship/operation only upon a legally definitive resolution of a dispute. At that time, the FAA will evaluate whether an application is complete and whether the proposed airport sponsor/operator is capable of assuming all grant assurances, safety compliance, and other Federal obligations, and has the expertise to operate the airport as required by law.
Kingfish note: It will be sad, infuriating, and ironic if all of the fighting caused by SB #2162 was moot because the FAA controls the final decision on airport ownership. The creation of much bad blood could have been avoided. Of course, there is the slim possibility that the FAA will approve the change anyway. It might depend on how much the FAA likes its appropriations. JMAA might not have thought of that possibility. There is also the chance that Jackson loses the lawsuit. The FAA said it can rule in favor of SB #2162 if it holds up in court. Stay tuned.