? Landlord says school had been given notice for failure to pay rent

By Randall Turk

Transcript Staff

Airman Flight School, which has trained general aviation pilots for several years at Westheimer Airport, has closed.

Officials said the school had fallen behind on rent for the building, which houses an aircraft maintenance shop and administrative offices.

The airport building is owned by the University of Oklahoma. A Cleveland County District Court order had granted possession of the building to the current landlord, Baker Hughes, Inc., of Houston, which leases the building from OU.

On Thursday, the Airman School was locked, and a sign on the door directed students and suppliers to leave messages on the school's phone system or Web site. About 30 aircraft occupied the runway apron behind the school. The school's director, Brenda Keene, could not be reached for comment.

George Bernhardt, real estate counsel for Baker Hughes, said the company obtained an order of possession Aug. 3, after Airman missed several rent payments. "We've been dealing with them some time," he said. "We filed for back rent and possession at the end of July and tried to work out time for them to relocate. We actually lowered their rent for awhile, but that didn't work out."

Airman had been given until Aug. 15 to vacate the building, Bernhardt said. "Later, we gave them until the middle of the month [Sept. 15] to relocate or work out a deal."

Sources at Max Westheimer Airport said Airman Flight School had approximately 85 students enrolled in its flight programs, down substantially from about 200 training there before the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City created a slowdown in the aviation industry.

It was later learned that Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of being involved in the trade center attacks, had trained at Airman Flight School before the Sept. 11 incident.

Bernhardt said Baker Hughes has not been notified of the flight school's plans. "Whether they've cleared their property out, we don't know," he said. "We need to find out whether they're out of there. If they're not, we'll have to get a writ to evict them."

The Baker Hughes lease from OU elapses on Oct. 1. "We'll let the building go at that time," Bernhardt said.

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