GovernmentThe White Plains Examiner

Million Air Claims Victorious in Latest Airport Litigation Ruling

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Million Air, a fixed-base operator at Westchester County Airport that is suing the county for breach of contract has claimed it has won the latest round in a legal battle playing out in federal court.

Last week, the U.S. District Court in White Plains granted Million Air’s motion in an amended complaint that it sufficiently alleged a breach of contract, thereby denying the county a chance to have the new claim dismissed.

Million Air sued Westchester County for $30 million in June 2021, alleging that the county withheld consent from the operator to build a new hangar at the airport. It is seeking damages and the ability to build a new hangar.

“I am pleased by this week’s district court ruling, which is a significant victory in Million Air’s pursuit of its claim that the county wrongfully withheld consent to the new hangar,” Million Air’s lead counsel Russell Yankwitt said in a statement last Friday afternoon. “We are optimistic about the advancement of this case and what this decision means for the lawsuit moving forward.”

Million Air obtained a 30-year lease in 2016 under former county executive Rob Astorino, which included the renovation of existing facilities. The following year, the fixed-base operator informed Astorino that it needed to replace the antiquated hangar.

When the administration of County Executive George Latimer came in at the start of 2018, it took a harder line on airport operations, at least in part a result of extensive complaints from the public about noise from residents in communities surrounding the airport. Some of those residents have reported that the noise from air traffic has exploded in the past five or six years with much of the airport traffic coming from private and corporate aviation.

Last Tuesday, the court granted Million Air’s motion because it was “not convinced that the County’s stated reasons for withholding approval are reasonable as a matter of law.” Therefore, the company will have the opportunity to conduct discovery.

The court also concluded that a motion to dismiss Million Air’s claim “would be frivolous” and almost certainly denied.

Million Air representatives have argued that allowing the new hangar would be beneficial because there would be a reduction in airplane noise. There would be far fewer private aircraft landing and departing because it could store more aircraft at the airport. Currently, many planes have to be stored off-site, which requires an empty aircraft fly in to pick up passengers.

“Our intention for Million Air White Plains is to provide the community with solutions to its long-term goals – less airplane noise by decreasing repositioning flights by more than 1,000 flights per year, more high-paying jobs and work for our local unions and suppliers,” Roger Woolsey, CEO of Million Air, said in a statement. “It is deeply saddening that this lawsuit had to be part of a move toward these goals for the community.”

Million Air also argues that the reduction in “ferry flights” would benefit the environment.

The court previously dismissed Million Air’s breach of contract claim under the lease agreement. It had allowed Million Air’s claim relating to the county’s reversal of its position on the installation of a stormwater protection system to move forward.

In an unrelated circumstance, the county last month completed public a series of public forums stretching back to last spring as it looks to update its Master Plan for the airport.





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