City of DeKalb responds to FAA Cornfest Letter


From Mark Biernacki:


The Chronicle called me yesterday about a possible story and referred me to your website regarding a supposed issue with the FAA and Cornfest. It just so happens that today (Wednesday), our staff met with the FAA and the State Division of Aeronautic about a variety of matters, including our annual update on this year’s Cornfest. In past years, our prime contacts have been with the State, with peripheral involvement by the FAA. No issues have ever been raised that would have jeopardized Cornfest being at the airport. This year, the FAA wanted to be more involved. Below, you will find an email that shows the approval from the FAA for this year’s event. Feel free to post.

Mark Biernacki
City Manager

—–Original Message—–
From: [] Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2011 2:47 PM
To: Cleveland, Tom
Cc: Moore, Thomas; michael.p.irwin@;;
Subject: Corn Fest Follow-Up


Thanks for coming in today to discuss this year’s proposed Corn Fest and the requirements that must be met for a non-aeronautical event to be held at DeKalb – Taylor Municipal Airport.

As you are aware, our office is often contacted by concerned airport users regarding various issues at government agreement/obligated airports.  We are thrown into a role of facilitator or investigator by issues brought to our attention.  My previous email was definitely a fact finding mission to find out what all was involved in this event and why I had not been contacted in previous years.

Not having been involved in any coordination of the previous Corn Fests, I was unaware that there were some vintage aircraft on display.  While that does not make the total event an airshow or anything, it is something I didn’t know about  and helps show me that you are trying to put an aviation spin on the event and sell the airport to the community.  Many times a community only views an airport as a drain on the City, as opposed to an economical benefit that attracts businesses.

I did see some of the comments regarding my email (by the
community/citizens) on DeKalb County Online and have heard some feedback from others that FAA was intent on shutting down Corn Fest.  That is definitely not the case.  While we do not support the shutdown of an entire airport for a non-aeronautical event, partial closures of airports are possible, provided airport operations are not adversely affected.  While Airports Sponsors are obligated to ensure aeronautical use of dedicated airport property, the Grant Assurances also lay out the requirement under Grant Assurance 24. Fee and Rental Structure to be self-sustaining as possible from an economic standpoint.  This and the Grant Assurance regarding Airport Revenue were the key reason for my mentioning of receiving Fair Market Value for the event.

From our discussion today, the following is either being or will be coordinated by the airport for this year’s Corn Fest:

–  There will be a charge for parking for the event.  A daily and/or weekend charge/fee was mentioned.  Based on historical attendance figures, this could lead to revenue to the airport ranging between $30k to $50K.
Also, you mentioned in the previous years’ events that the sales tax collected at the event went back into the airport budget.  These two sources of income (if close to the estimated amount) would, in my opinion, be considered Fair Market Value for a 3-day event.

–  I’ve had discussions with Rob Hahn at the Illinois Division of Aeronautics and he mentioned you were getting him the information on any temporary structures (rides, stages,etc.) that would need to be reviewed from an aeronautical standpoint to assess any impacts on air navigation standpoint to the remaining part of the airport during the event.

–  It was my understanding that you/the City had just executed the agreement with the event proponent.  A copy of this agreement should be forwarded to Mike Irwin (Illinois Division of Aeronautics) and I.

–  You also mentioned that you have coordinated with the hangar tenants regarding access to the airfield open during the event, with special provisions for those still requiring access during the event.  Included in that effort was rebates/refunds on rent during the event, tiedown parking on the apron in lieu of hangar parking, and wing walking someone out of their hangar.  The last option is potentially the most difficult as on-the-spot availability of wing walkers would most likely be favored by any user wanting to get out of his/her hangar at a moments notice.  Very short notice availability should be granted to the users.  In looking at the event plan drawing you provided, this could be the most challenging issue to you, but it sounds like you’re trying to reach as many of the hangar tenants as possible to lay out their options during the event.

Anyway, it appears that a good faith effort is being made on all the issues I previously brought up.  Based on the progression of these items, I do not foresee any objection on our part for the planned event.  Please do not lose sight of our typical turnaround on airspace review though (45 days), so the sooner you provide the airspace information to Rob Hahn at IDA, the less hectic things will be as the event date approaches.

Also, approval for non-aeronautical events is done on a case-by-case basis.
If/when this year’s event is approved, it shall not be viewed as approval for future events.

As I stated in my previous email, feel free to share this email with those involved in the coordination of the event.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Rich Pur
Chicago Airports District office
(847) 294-7527

Link to Letter from Rich Pur to Tom Cleveland dated May 18, 2010

About Mac McIntyre

Mac McIntyre has more than 30 years experience in the multi-media industry working as a freelance writer, graphic designer, broadcast and television production and publisher/editor. He has been designing and maintaining websites, including this one, since 1997.
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