December 1, 2004
By Alton K. Marsh
The three new members of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District elected to the five-member board in November are members of a group that wants to limit growth of the airport. Their candidacy was supported by the Community Airport Restoration Effort (CARE) that has raised concerns about land use and noise related to the airport. Their victory came in an emotional and heavily funded fight that became one of the hottest issues on the ballot. Spending by opponents and proponents totaled more than $100,000.
"AOPA is disappointed at the results," said John Pfeifer, AOPA's California regional representative. "We don't know what it means for the airport yet because we have seen no specific proposals from the CARE candidates. In terms of long-term viability of the airport, the airport has received numerous federal airport grants, and therefore the district is obligated to operate the airport for at least 20 years. They also have grants for land acquisition, and those grants obligate the district to use that land as an airport in perpetuity. We will be watching this situation very closely," Pfeifer said. AOPA ran local newspaper ads prior to the election pointing out the importance of the airport to the community.
South County Airport of Santa Clara County, near San Martin, has big improvements listed in the master plan, in addition to the more than 100 hangars currently under construction. The improvements have raised concerns among San Martin residents that they don't have a say in the progress of the airport proposals, and therefore many have expressed opposition. The South County Airport Pilots Association (SCAPA) worked with the airport management during the update process, and supports it. Airport Support Network volunteer Donald Murphy will monitor the situation. Murphy is also the secretary of SCAPA.
There are lots of welcome improvements listed in the plan. If adopted by the county Board of Supervisors, they would include the extension of the present 3,100-foot-long runway to 5,000 feet. It also would be widened from 75 to 100 feet. The load-bearing capacity of the runway would be increased from the present 12,500 pounds to 35,000 pounds, thus accommodating modest-size jets. In addition, the master plan calls for acquiring 332 acres adjoining the airport to protect approaches to the runway. In other land issues, the plan would provide 18 acres on the airport for FBO leasehold. The plan would also designate space for a general aviation terminal and restaurant. Finally, the plan would call for 36 box hangars in addition to the 105 currently under construction.
The hangars will be completed by December 1. When they are finished, the county will start partial construction of new security fencing and the installation of an automated surface observation system (ASOS).
A newspaper story in The Sun of San Bernardino indicates that Rialto Municipal/Miro Field is in danger. However, when the city fathers have firmed up their concerns and are ready to act, they will find that the FAA will oppose any move to close the airport: Among the several options under consideration, closing the airport can't be one of them because the airport has accepted federal grant money and associated obligations that don't expire for 20 years after the grant is received. In addition, FAA opposition is based on the use of federal funds to purchase significant amounts of land for the airport. Obligations for land acquisition that also keep the airport open do not expire, an FAA official told AOPA recently.
The Sun article on September 30 said 80 percent of the hangars are rented for nonaviation purposes. The airport reportedly costs the city $425,000 annually, with a total deficit of $8 million. The city was reported to be considering three possibilities: maintain the airport despite the costs, downsize the airport to cut costs, or close it and sell its 650 acres that border the soon-to-be-completed Interstate 210 extension. City council members and administrators were quoted as seeing the land value as a "gold mine," with the possibility that a master-planned housing community could replace it. But the article also quoted the FAA as stating that past FAA grants mean there are obligations that keep the airport open 20 years past the last grant. The FAA spokesman did not address land acquisition in the newspaper article.
The Los Angeles Land Use Commission (LALUC) passed a resolution, for what it's worth, opposing the residential component of the Douglas Park plan near the airport. Unfortunately, the commission does not have authority over the residential development. When the LALUC developed the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, it did not include these parcels (Boeing property) since they were already used for aviation-related purposes. However, after determining it did not have authority, the commission passed a resolution on a 4-0 vote opposing the residential parts of the development.
Before making the decision, the LALUC heard from John Pfeifer, AOPA's California regional representative, who retired from a 35-year FAA career as a manager of the San Francisco airports district office. Pfeifer told the LALUC of three concerns:
Pfeifer said that in addition to AOPA's opposition, the FAA is also opposed to the proposed residential development.
11 — Truckee. Truckee-Tahoe Airport (TRK). Young Eagle Flights and Pancake Breakfast at EAA Hangar. Call Charlie White, 530/587-4811.
2 — Avalon. Catalina Airport (AVX). Third Annual First Flight to Catalina. Call 760/754-0152.
13 — Palm Springs. Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). National Gay Pilots Association Winter Warm-Up. Gay and lesbian pilots from across the country gather for their winter meeting. Call 214/336-0873.
29 — Agua Dulce. Agua Dulce Airpark (L70). Cessna 120, 140, 170 Fly-In Lunch cohosted by California State representatives for Cessna 140 and Cessna 170 organizations. Call 661/916-5399.
9-12 — Ontario. Ontario Convention Center. Soaring Society of America National Convention. Seminars, demonstrations, full-scale flight simulator, 25 vintage and current state-of-the-art sailplanes on display. Call Gaynell Temple, 505/392-1177.
"Calendar" is updated weekly on the Web ( www.aopa.org/pilot/calendar/). Weekend flying destinations are posted each Friday in AOPA ePilot.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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