AOPA says school and airport don't mix

July 7, 2004

AOPA says school and airport don't mix

AOPA is opposing the construction of an elementary school right beside California's Oxnard Airport. A school district proposal would put a 670-pupil school just 1,300 feet south of Runway 7-25, well inside the airport traffic pattern.

"AOPA has historically opposed placing schools within two miles of an existing airport," wrote AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn in a letter to the Oxnard School District. "We are strongly opposed to building a school [in this location] as the only alternative identified in the draft environmental impact report."

Dunn noted that California law requires a review of proposed school locations within two miles of a runway. "This is good public policy, a policy designed to protect the interest of both the local community and the airport." (AOPA lobbied for that provision in California law.)

The proposed school would be within the traffic pattern zone (TPZ) of the airport comprehensive land use plan (ACLUP). This plan, required by California law, says that schools, nursing homes, and similar sensitive sites should not be located within the TPZ.

The school district said in the environmental impact report that the risk of an aircraft accident occurring at the school was low.

"We would agree," said Dunn, "but the key issue is not the magnitude of risk, but rather the consequences of an accident occurring once."

The school district also minimized the impact of noise on the proposed school. The airport is busy with more than 83,000 takeoffs and landings each year, including some 3,000 annual commuter airline flights. It also has numerous helicopter operations. AOPA said that the environmental report should specifically address the interior noise levels related to helicopter operations and the exterior/interior noise level reduction required to reduce the significant noise impacts.

"California has led the nation in planning and protecting airports from incompatible land use," said Dunn. "The Oxnard School District should pay attention to the state's law and policy."

July 7, 2004