Christopher Luxon's call to have another look at Whenuapai as a commercial airport has provoked a furious response from residents and advice from Defence Minister Ron Mark to get a ''reality check''.
The departing Air New Zealand chief executive is undeterred. He believes a dual-use airport from the Air Force base is feasible, would cut the cost of flying and pointedly says it would provide the opportunity to fly more to regional destinations.
A no-frills commercial airport by his estimate could be built for $200 million, a big sum but substantially less than the $1 billion estimated cost of a second runway at Auckland Airport. Whenuapai has two runways, the longest being over 2000m, similar in length to Wellington and well capable of handling jet aircraft for domestic flight.
He argues that it would be popular with passengers from the northwest and those from the North Shore.
But those who argue against, particularly neighbours, have formed a long queue. Some have had some practice at opposing the plan and also have plenty of advice for Luxon, who leaves the airline at the end of the month with a bid for politics representing the National Party a strong possibility.
A local community group has advised him to follow the lead of another businessman-turned National MP, Sir John Key, who is now an Air New Zealand director.
The Hibiscus and Bays Local Board says the two men should talk as more than 15 years ago Sir John campaigned against the Whenuapai option - which the airline wasn't keen on either - and the debate was effectively shut down in 2008.
Changes since then have strengthened the argument for and against a commercial operation at the airport.
Aviation has boomed since and numbers through Auckland Airport have grown from around 13 million a year to well over 20 million now.
Travellers through Auckland Airport's ageing domestic terminal will agree with Luxon and airline lobby groups that the experience is ''suboptimal''.
And a second airport would also give pause to rethink the need for a second runway at Mangere to the north of the existing operation with the $1b-plus bill and potential disruption.
But the years since the last serious skirmish over Whenuapai present a more compelling case against it. There are tens of thousands more residents in the vicinity, many who have invested vast sums in real estate have deep pockets to fight it.
As Auckland Airport points out, airlines have been consulted and have already signed up to the current capital spending.
And the Government would need to support the proposal given it owns the air base and controls the air space.
The early signs are not good on that front for Air New Zealand. Defence Minister Mark said he felt blindsided by the airline's bid. While the review of the Defence Estate would consider it, the minister has said it appears half-baked.
Why has Luxon done it? It's been described as something of a parting shot at Auckland Airport from the outgoing airline chief and the chances of a Whenuapai option are remote. But along the way he's warmed up some political muscles and won't be at all surprised by the debate he's stirred.