May 27, 2004
May 27, 2004 - The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee says the FAA should consider wresting control of Buchanan Field (CCR) from Contra Costa County unless the county abandons its efforts to close the airport. In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) wrote that continuing efforts to close the airport, while at the same time spending federal dollars to study expanding it, are "inconsistent and wasteful."
The chairman's letter provided powerful ammunition when AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer testified against the closure before the county board of supervisors. The letter is a result of efforts by local members of the Mt. Diablo Pilots Association and the Friends of Buchanan Field, and local congressional representatives, Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and George Miller (D-Calif.).
Young, a former resident of Contra Costa County, said county officials' determination to study closing Buchanan, "has become detrimental to the continued development of the airport and will discourage investment by the private sector."
He concluded his letter with a warning shot. "In the event that the County continues to take action that is not in the best interest of the airport or our national aviation system, the FAA must consider transferring the sponsorship and control of CCR to another local agency that would be more willing and able to meet its obligation to the Federal government."
Despite Young's harsh warning, the county's board of supervisors decided to put out a request for proposals to build a replacement airport and develop the Buchanan Field land. During a hearing before the vote, Pfeifer told the supervisors that funding the study would be a waste of taxpayer money because the FAA has already said there is almost no chance the agency would approve closing Buchanan.
The supervisors say they expect the study could take 10 years or more to complete. Even the main proponent of closing Buchanan, Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier, was quoted as saying his idea is a "pie in the sky."
"As the representative of Alaska, where general aviation is a necessary part of everyday life, Congressman Young understands better than most the need to preserve our nation's airports," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And as chairman of the committee that oversees the FAA, his word carries a lot of weight."
Pilot Skip Gibbs regularly uses his Bonanza A36 to bring medical volunteers and supplies to remote areas of Mexico. Just before sunset, Gibbs was flying to the historic city of El Fuerte in the state of Sinaloa where LIGA International Flying Doctors of Mercy has been doing good works since 1934.
A federal agency chartered to secure national borders has been working inland, targeting general aviation with no clear authority.
The board of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority will wait 120 days before making a final decision to close Braden Airport, citing community concerns.