Calif. airport repairs could squeeze safety

April 17, 2012

Flight operations at the Tracy, Calif., Municipal Airport could have a higher risk profile if efforts to fix deteriorating pavement shorten the runways, allowing a reduction in the airport’s safety zone.

Land-use encroachment is already a problem at Tracy—and if repairs shorten the runways to less than 4,000 feet, Tracy could be reclassified as a short-runway airport, AOPA cautioned in a letter to City Councilman Stephen Abercrombie. The official was scheduled to meet with airport supporters April 19.

A recent runway resurfacing project “was not done properly,” resulting in foreign-object debris hazards for aircraft at Tracy, where the runways are 4,005 feet and 4,001 feet long. Both runways are 100 feet wide.

The city’s efforts to repair the surface could reduce the lengths and make the airport vulnerable for reclassification as a general aviation airport with short runways under California land-use guidelines. That reclassification could reduce the extent of required safety zones, and offer less protection to citizens on the ground while airport traffic patterns and flight operations remained unchanged, wrote John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy, in the April16 letter. He “strongly recommended” that the original runway lengths be retained.

“AOPA urges the city to work with the Tracy Airport Association, the Federal Aviation Administration and the CalTrans Division of Aeronautics to ensure better compatibility between the airport and the community,” wrote Collins.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.