visits to properties hit airports nearby.
READINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Small airports and aviation- related businesses within 10 miles of President Donald Trump’s properties in Florida and New Jersey have lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in business already this year because the airports can’t be open when he’s in one of his nearby homes.
“Twenty percent of our annual business is affected by the president’s visits in the summertime because that’s how much of our business takes place on the weekends in the summertime,” said Thor Solberg, whose airport in western New Jersey is mostly idle while Trump spends 17 days this month at his Bedminster country club.
The airports have no recourse other than to appeal to the Secret Service, which oversees presidential security. But that proved unsuccessful for the owners of a small Florida airport that lies within the no-fly zone near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. In March, the Secret Service told the tenants of Lantana Airport that aircraft couldn’t take off from the facility, which is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago. The 28 businesses at the airport include a flight school and banner operation. They said they were losing thousands of dollars each time Trump visited.
Jonathan Miller, the contractor who operates the airport, said earlier this year that a helicopter company opted to move elsewhere rather than deal with the airport closures, taking an estimated $440,000 in annual rent and fuel payments with it.
Michelle Edwards, office manager at Palm Beach Flight Training at Lantana, said it was especially stressful in the spring when Trump’s visits closed the airport for three straight weekends, usually with about two days’ notice.
“We have customers, their first question when they call is, ‘Am I even going to be able to train there because of President Trump coming down so much?’” Edwards said. “So we have customers leaving, going elsewhere and not even starting with us because they’re nervous about President Trump coming in.”
Solberg echoed Edwards’ concerns about the potentially long-lasting effects of the disruption.
“It’s not just the current revenue that’s a problem,” he said, noting that his Solberg-Hunterdon Airport is losing “tens of thousands of dollars” this month. “It’s the fact that we’re unable to get continuous new business because we’re unable to provide potential customers with a service that they can rely on.”
Several members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the Secret Service in June urging it to consider allowing the airports near Trump’s residence to use a system similar to one in place near Washington, D.C., that allows properly screened pilots to fly to and from airports in a security-sensitive area.
So far, there has been no response, Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., said Monday. A Secret Service spokesman didn’t return an email seeking comment.