OPA-LOCKA — The newest development in the ongoing saga at Opa-locka Executive Airport began with what police are investigating as an act of vandalism, and what Opa-Locka Flightline is calling a blatant disregard for the law.
Anthony Robinson, co-owner of Opa-locka Flightline, said he was just returning from some banking errands Friday, Aug. 28 around 6 p.m. when he saw two men tearing out his firm's fuel berm.
The berm is an 80-foot rubber liner with steel reinforced sides that is placed on the ground to contain fuel spills or leaks that can occur when tanks are being refueled.
That piece of equipment can cost about $10,000, and is required by law for every fixed-base operation, or FBO, such as Flightline. FBOs offer fuel, maintenance, and storage services for business aircraft and privately owned jets.
Robinson approached the men, whom he identified to Miami-Dade police as AA Acquisitions property manager Dan Woodruff and another AAA employee. AA Acquisitions manages lease holders at the airport for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD), and has been trying to evict Flightline from the property for several months.
Robinson said he confronted the men and was told by Woodruff that AA Acquisitions owner Michael Adler and their legal counsel instructed him to take the mat.
"I have a job to do," Robinson said Woodruff told him.
"Dan, you know I'm going to have to call the police," Robinson replied.
At that, the men backed off, and Robinson was left with the piece of equipment damaged beyond repair.
"The county knows we need the berm to sell fuel, so they have someone rip it out and then hit Flightline with enforcement actions if we continue to operate. We're losing thousands a day here," Robinson told the South Florida Times.
AA Acquisitions has made no offer to replace the equipment, and Woodruff, the property manager, has not been subjected to disciplinary action.
"My bosses are aware of the situation," Woodruff said in an interview with the newspaper. "I'm cooperating with the police department."
Flightline has had no contact with the men since the incident, as the case is under investigation by Det. Humberto Afonso of the Miami-Dade police department.
Robinson said the following week, a competing FBO, Orion Jet Center, appeared at Opa-locka Airport on the same ramp, in close proximity to Flightline. Several telephone calls revealed AA employees, including Woodruff, working at Orion.
Flightline initially held a five-year temporary lease at the airport, but was seeking a long-term, 30-year lease and 15 more acres on which to build for an expansion. Robinson said that when AA Acquisitions assumed management of the airport, that company refused to grant a lease upon the promised terms.
Flightline owners said they began withholding rent because AA Acquisitions failed to perform.
Flightline has threatened a billion-dollar suit against the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and AA Acquisitions, alleging breach of contract and racial discrimination. Flightline is the only black-owned FBO at the airport.
"Basically, the fight is on," said Attorney C.K. Hoffler, who with legal giant Willie Gary leads Flightline's legal counsel. "We have reason to believe AA is involved in criminal activity against Flightline, which takes things to a whole other level."
In July, Judge Jerald Bagley of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court granted a stay of eviction when AA sought to have Flightline removed from the property. AA tried to have the case moved to federal court to appeal the stay. But earlier this month, federal courts refused the motion to hear the case.
"Mr. Woodruff's actions will prevent us from receiving fuel because we are required by MDAD to park our fuel trucks in the spill containment berm," which was destroyed, Robinson said.
He said the company is saving its reserves for its best customers, but can't refuel without the berm and can't take any new orders either.
"If we are prevented from receiving fuel then we will not be able to service our customers, which will put us out of business, and then MDAD and AAA will have solved the Opa-Locka Flightline problem," Robinson said.
Photo: Anthony Robinson