December 1, 2001
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
AOPA is continuing its efforts to protect San Diego's Gillespie Field from potentially incompatible uses. As part of that effort, Miguel Vasconcelos, AOPA's director of airports, recently wrote to airport and government officials recommending actions designed to protect the airport and remedy past failures to comply with applicable laws.
In his November letter, Vasconcelos reminded members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors that airport property must be used to accommodate existing and future aeronautical needs and cited past instances when airport property may have been misused. The most glaring of those occurred when Marshall Avenue was extended through airport property without FAA permission, effectively cutting off a large section of the airport.
Vasconcelos also reminded county officials that revenues produced by airport property must remain at the airport for aeronautical improvements. The FAA has found irregularities in 1998 and 1999 payments to outside entities involving airport-generated revenues.
The letter closed with a list of recommended actions designed to remedy past problems and ensure future compliance with the law. Those recommendations include working with the FAA to ensure compliance with federal obligations; reviewing accounting procedures to prevent illegal revenue diversion; taking all necessary steps to ensure that airport property is used to meet the aeronautical needs of the airport; and updating planning documents to include the master plan.
With the start of the new year, AOPA representatives are considering the issues that will affect general aviation in California during 2001. In the coming year, aviation advocates agree that incompatible land use in the vicinity of airports will continue to be the top issue facing GA in California.
AOPA members can expect their representatives in the state to continue to seek the support of members of the legislature, executive office, and local officials for increasing state funding of airport land use planning activities to protect airports and surrounding communities.
Marlin Beckwith, who has managed the Caltrans Aeronautics Program since April 1994, has announced his retirement. Beckwith was scheduled to retire on December 15, 2000. He was noted for his active support of general aviation and his willingness to work with AOPA on matters of importance to members.
It is not yet clear who will replace Beckwith, but several qualified members of his current staff have expressed interest in the position.
The Board of Supervisors of Marin County has authorized spending $6,000 from the Gnoss Field budget to study the possibility of creating a so-called aircraft exclusionary zone.
The money will be used to hire the aviation consulting firm of Cortright and Seibold. The consultants will be asked to prepare a report about the possibility of establishing a local rule that will prohibit aircraft using Gnoss Field from flying within an exclusionary zone. The report is intended to help the county prepare the necessary documents to petition the FAA to accept such local exclusionary zones.
Airport Support Network volunteer Charles Gallagher first brought this issue to AOPA's attention.
Forty-six airports will be surveyed for existing and anticipated ground access needs. The airports were identified as part of the ongoing Ground Access to Airports Study being conducted by Caltrans Aeronautics. AOPA is participating as a member of the Study Steering Committee.
A team of consultants has developed a comprehensive survey that has been sent to each of the airports. The survey will be used to gather base data about the airports' current and future access needs.
The study is of great interest to transportation officials as well as the governor and legislature. Airport advocates view the study as recognition of the importance of air transportation to the economic growth of the state.
The airport land use technical committee for San Luis Obispo County-McChesney Field has finished work on a land use plan amendment designed to prevent residential development from encroaching on the airport. The Airport Land Use Commission was scheduled to vote on the plan in November. The plan was expected to pass, and the vote was to be followed by a four- to six-week public comment period.
The amendment has received support from local media as well as airport users, thanks to the hard work of Airport Support Network volunteer Robert G. Tefft. He has helped mobilize airport users to back the measure by writing for the local pilot's association newsletter, meeting with members from a variety of aviation associations, and speaking at safety seminars.
Arcata/Eureka Airport (ACV) is set to lose its human weather observers in favor of an automated surface observation system (ASOS). Despite the objections of airport users, the Airport Advisory Committee concluded that the ASOS would be commissioned in December following the termination of an existing contract with weather observers.
Airport users are unhappy about the conversion to ASOS weather reporting because the change will reduce the usability of the airport, which is frequently covered by fog. Without the human observers, commercial operators, with the exception of two FAR Part 121 passenger operators that use the airport, will be unable to land at Arcata during instrument meteorological conditions. In addition, the loss of human observers means that the airport will lose its unicom advisory service, which was operated by the observers.
Airport Support Network volunteer David Ravetti has been working with the airport administration to address airport users' concerns regarding the change.
A new law has made Merced County the local base reuse authority for the former Castle Air Force Base. The decision to give the authority to the county ends a controversy over who would control future use of the former base. One county government agency will now have the right to administer the reuse of Castle. Conversion of the property to a civilian use has been slow, and the cost of maintaining the large airfield has caused concern among local officials. It is not yet clear whether the county will continue to maintain the site as an airport.
Watsonville Municipal Airport recently held its sixth annual open house. The event was sponsored jointly by the airport, the Watsonville Pilot's Association, and local chapters of the EAA and The Ninety-Nines. Airport Support Network volunteer Kerrick R. Philleo threw his support behind the event by joining other pilots in flying some 160 people as part of a nickel-a-pound fund-raiser.
On a more serious note, an engineering firm is preparing documents for a proposed extension of Runway 20 and the creation of a Runway 2 ILS approach. Those changes were scheduled to be submitted to the FAA this month and are necessary for final approval of a school site near the airport.
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
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