December 1, 2005
By Alton K. Marsh
California officials have turned down a request for $450,000 needed to pay for 10 hangars that would have brought much needed revenue to Oceanside Municipal Airport, according to a report in the San Diego North County Times. City officials said without the funding the airport will lose $40,000 to $50,000 each year, Oceanside Public Works Director Peter Weiss told the paper.
The scenario painted by city officials continues with a prediction that in less than a year the airport funds will be exhausted and the airport will start draining money from the city's general fund. Weiss said state officials felt the airport, given its present financial condition, was simply not a good investment.
Weiss said the city will pursue commercial loans and private partnerships to find the $450,000.
The airport's financial plight has led a majority of the city council to vote for hiring a private consultant to determine the best use for the airport if it is closed. Bids on a request for proposals (RFP) for such a consultant were due November 10.
The hiring of a consultant seems to ignore the requirements attached to past federal funding. Acceptance of federal money for airport projects — as Oceanside did last year — require the airport to remain open 20 years, but acceptance of federal money for land — as Oceanside accepted in 2003 — require the airport to remain open in perpetuity. The FAA said last summer that the airport must indeed stay open in perpetuity. The San Diego North County Times reports confusion at least among some in Oceanside as to whether the FAA really means it. The RFP confirms the confusion or lack of willingness to accept the terms of the federal funding: It asks consultants to identify potential development if the airport closes in five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, and beyond. All of those time periods are covered under FAA restrictions, and none would be allowed.
For the past five years, AOPA has worked diligently to ensure the airport stays open — working with local pilots and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers. AOPA successfully opposed implementation of restrictions based on aircraft type and a ridiculous proposal to have N numbers painted "under" the wing of aircraft based at the airport. AOPA is working with the FAA to defeat any attempt to close the airport.
Because of the council vote, FAA restrictions notwithstanding, a consultant must be hired. Consultants were told in the RFP to assume the airport is in a 100-year floodplain and there may be geotechnical issues such as potential liquefaction requiring deep removals (20 feet or more) and recompaction of the ground. The consultant is to address "closure scenarios."
"The city expects an analysis that, at a minimum, specifically addresses the grant and loan assurances [restrictions] as regards the requirement to operate the airport as well as potential federal, state, and third-party litigation," the RFP says.
Three alternatives for continuing to operate the airport are also discussed in the RFP and are to be reviewed by the winning consultant. One is to continue to operate the airport, but with minimum maintenance required to continue airside operations only. The airport would have to make do with assets currently in place. The second is to build out the airport per the master plan, but the south side only. The third alternative is to build out the entire airport per the master plan.
Oceanside is one of a number of airports with growing problems that have attracted the attention of AOPA policy officials. Recently AOPA called a meeting of its California Airport Support Network volunteers in nearby San Diego at a hotel next to Montgomery Field as an acknowledgement of the growing controversies in the area.
Airport Support Network volunteers constantly are searching for ways to promote, protect, and defend their airports. ASN volunteer Bob Lenox at Palo Alto Airport in Santa Clara County is continuing efforts to ensure that the general aviation airport will remain open when the county's lease expires in 12 years.
The airport, owned by the City of Palo Alto, has been leased to Santa Clara County and operated as part of the county's 3-airport system, which also includes Reid-Hillview and South County airports. But at the end of September, the county confirmed that it does not plan to renew its 50-year lease in 2017.
"Palo Alto is a critical reliever to the San Francisco and San Jose areas. AOPA will be working closely with Bob and local pilots to make sure the airport will continue to be operated as a publicly owned, public-use facility after the lease expires," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. "It's never too early for strategic planning and advocacy efforts when it comes to protecting vital GA airports."
Palo Alto is home to more than 500 aircraft and hosts more than 200,000 operations a year.
It turns out a documentary film is a very good way to support your airport. Officials at Van Nuys Airport found that out after local film maker Brian Terwilliger produced One Six Right: The Romance of Flying ( www.onesixright.com/video/aerials.html). The movie has made many people want to visit Van Nuys. Now officials at Torrance Municipal Airport have done the same and premiered Taking Flight: The History of Torrance Municipal Airport to an extremely valuable group — the city council. Next it will appear on the local cable channel, which officials hope will boost local support for the airport. The film was scheduled to begin appearing on CitiCABLE3 in early November. The Torrance movie was created by the Torrance Air Fair Association headed by Nancy Clinton, according to The Torrance Daily Breeze. The movie even has the support of the Torrance mayor, Dan Walker. The movie relies on interviews of pioneers who were at the airport in its early days. The airport started as a military training strip and was handed over to the city in 1946. It got its name, Zamperini Field, after Torrance resident and war hero Louis Zamperini, who appears in the film, the Daily Breeze reported.
The County of Riverside Planning Commission in California has agreed with AOPA that building residential areas near busy general aviation airports is not in the best interest of the residents or airport users. AOPA had asked the commission to turn down a development proposal that would have rezoned land adjacent to Flabob Airport to permit a medium high density residential housing area 600 feet from the runway centerline. The commission expressed support for the privately owned, public-use airport and said that any proposal for development of the land around the airport would have to comply with the airport land use compatibility plan prepared by the Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC). AOPA and the ALUC had pointed out that the project did not coincide with the airport land-use plan, which requires residential areas to be less dense and located at least 750 feet from the runway centerline. AOPA also had told the commission that "allowing residential development so close to an airport rather than abiding by the ALUC's long-term plan for compatible development is poor public policy."
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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