AOPA Action: California Edition

What AOPA is doing for California

April 1, 2008

Reid-Hillview faces renewed closure threat

A decade after losing a battle to close Reid-Hillview Airport, Santa Clara County officials are again considering selling off the busy Silicon Valley general aviation field—this time as a means of filling a projected $150-million budget shortfall.

In his January 29 “state of the county” address, County Supervisor Peter McHugh said the sale of Reid-Hillview could best realize the area’s economic potential, while eliminating the need to lay off county employees. If such a plan goes forward, developers would then be in a position to convert the 179-acre site into commercial and residential properties.

“The county’s financial position has forced us to reconsider how we use that land,” said Mike McInerney, McHugh’s chief of staff. “All [McHugh] is asking for is his colleagues to gather information on the closure process—nothing more. The [Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors] can then decide if it wants to go down that path.”

AOPA opposes any discussion of closing Reid-Hillview. AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn questioned the legality of pursuing a closure study, saying the county has a contractual obligation to operate the airport for at least 20 years from the date of its last federal Airport Improvement Program grant.

“RHV is within this time period and thus must remain open,” Dunn wrote in a February 5 letter to McHugh. “In our recent discussions with the FAA concerning this latest threat to the airport, we were told that the agency will not allow RHV to close and will take any and all action necessary to ensure the airport continues to operate.”

To Dunn, the effort to close Reid Hillview can only worsen the county’s financial crisis. He pointed out that “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were spent on at least two previous attempts to close the airport.

Dunn also warned that funding for future closure studies must come from the county general fund, since using airport-generated revenue for this purpose would constitute an illegal diversion of funds.

McInerney said the board appreciates AOPA’s concern for Reid-Hillview, and expects an internal report due in August or September will provide additional clarification on future closure studies and other possible actions. “Then we’ll know where we go from here,” he said. “Obviously, this is not going to happen overnight, regardless of any decision the board makes.”

AOPA is slated to hold its annual exposition in San Jose later this year. More than 10,000 AOPA members are expected to attend the three-day event, with many flying their own aircraft into Reid-Hillview, San Jose International, and other local airports. SJC will also host the Expo static aircraft display.

ASF reaches out after fatal Corona midair

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is reaching out to Southern California members and other pilots, stressing collision avoidance procedures in and around the busy traffic patterns of nontowered airports.

The action is a response to the January 20 midair collision of a Cessna 172 and a Cessna 152 near the Corona Municipal Airport, which killed the four occupants of the two aircraft and another person on the ground.

ASF has added a special module to its regularly scheduled safety seminars in Southern California to specifically address collision avoidance procedures. Recent seminars took place in San Diego, Costa Mesa, North Hills, and Ontario.

Speaking via video during one of the seminars, ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg urged pilots to always be on the alert for other traffic. He said nontowered fields such as Corona are similar to highway intersections, where the majority of automotive collisions occur.

Landsberg also pointed out that despite the Corona tragedy, midair collisions are still rare among the causes of general aviation accidents. “Fewer than 10 occur nationally in a typical year,” he said. “Accidents with ground fatalities are even more unusual, with fewer than three annually on a national basis.”

UAVs trigger additional Beale airspace restrictions

The FAA has granted the Air Force’s request for three unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations per week at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, to support flights of strategic unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

Impact on the general aviation community will exist in the form of three, 10-nautical-mile-radius temporary flight restrictions over the base each week. AOPA has requested that the FAA provide an advance schedule of each week’s TFRs in order to alert pilots in the area.

AOPA is keeping a close eye on the Beale TFRs and the larger issue of unmanned aircraft integration, and has asked the FAA to set a deadline by which the Air Force must provide an alternate means of separating UAVs from piloted aircraft.

“We’ve made it clear that the FAA can’t keep granting more TFRs for these operations,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. “Restricting airspace isn’t the way to integrate [UAV] operations into the national airspace system. The Air Force needs to use chase airplanes or other methods to separate the [UAVs] from other aircraft.”

According to AOPA, the issuance of an advisory notam provides a reasonable alternative to airspace-grabbing TFRs. The FAA recently took this action in support of tactical UAV operations near the U.S. Marine Corps base at Cherry Point, North Carolina.

AOPA has requested similar measures be implemented at Beale, although funding limitations and other considerations have prevented the Air Force from acquiring the necessary infrastructure.

T-route comment deadline imminent

April 4 is the deadline for public comments regarding the implementation of four low-altitude area navigation (RNAV) routes, designated T-257, T-259, T-261 and T-263, in the Sacramento and San Francisco terminal areas.

AOPA has been a strong proponent of these T-routes since their inception eight years ago, seeing them as a safe and easy way for pilots to make the best use of their IFR-certified GPS equipment.

If the four new T-routes obtain FAA approval, they’ll be depicted on the appropriate IFR en route low altitude charts. T-routes are open to all RNAV-equipped aircraft capable of filing flight plans with equipment suffix “G” (for GPS).

AOPA plans to file comments in support of the T-route program and encourages members to follow suit. To submit comments, contact Ken McElroy, Airspace and Rules Group, Office of Systems Operations Airspace and AIM, FAA, 800 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C., 20591; telephone 202-267-8783.

AOPA backs state land-use bill

After years of working with the California Transportation Commission and other aviation supporters to strengthen the state’s airport land-use laws, AOPA is throwing its support behind a bill designed to do just that.

Sponsored by California Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), S.B.1118 would require all counties with an airline-served airport to create and staff a commission devoted to airport land-use issues. The bill would also eliminate the authority of county boards of supervisors to exempt themselves from establishing an airport land use commission.

Among the affected counties are Marin, San Bernardino, and Santa Cruz—all areas where local airports are under pressure from incompatible development schemes, and concerns over aircraft-related noise.

“Responsible land-use planning heads off many of the noise complaints and safety concerns that threaten airports,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. “This measure becoming law is vital for the future of California’s airports.”

AOPA members in California are urged to contact their state senators and ask them to support this important legislation.

La Mirada pushes to rebuild ‘dangerous’ radio tower

The city of La Mirada is moving one step closer to rebuilding a potentially dangerous radio tower near Fullerton Municipal Airport, despite objections from AOPA and the local pilot community.

The city council is considering a development agreement with the Capstar Radio Operating Company (also known as KFI and Clear Channel) for the 684-foot tower. The previous tower stood at 760 feet and had caused multiple aircraft accidents and fatalities over the years. The tower was destroyed on December 19, 2004, after a Cessna 182 collided with it in VFR conditions. The pilot and passenger were both killed.

“It’s incredibly important for our members to voice their concerns about the reconstruction,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “City officials need to hear about the dangers from a pilot’s perspective.”

Because the tower is to be rebuilt on the same site and at a lower height, the FAA determined that reconstruction of the tower would not be a hazard to air navigation. However, since the tower sits within La Mirada city limits (less than a mile from the airport), Capstar still needs approval from the city to rebuild the radio tower.

If the tower is rebuilt, it must be painted orange and white and have a dual obstruction lighting system that will flash high-intensity white lights during the day and red at night. AOPA insisted on the dual lighting system after the FAA repeatedly rebuffed the association’s efforts to keep the radio tower from being rebuilt.