Expanding landfill could increase bird strikes

April 5, 2012

The proposed expansion of a commercial landfill across the extended runway centerline would bring more birds—and bird strikes—to California’s Stockton Metropolitan Airport, AOPA said in a letter to county officials.

The plan to expand the Forward Landfill, described in a local newspaper account as one of the largest in California, would double its capacity for holding local garbage and trash brought in from other areas. Westward expansion of the landfill—located southeast of the extended centerline of the airport’s runway 11L/29R—would infringe on approach and departure paths. Members may comment on the proposal by April 7.

The increased bird strike hazard, and the effect of increased landfill acreage on instrument approach minimums, must be mitigated for safety and efficiency of aircraft operations, said John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy in an April 3 letter to county planners. The officials are seeking public input on the proposal under provisions of California legislation requiring an environmental impact assessment.

“We are concerned that the number of interactions between aircraft operating normally to the airport and birds attracted by the landfill will increase. We respectfully request that the Planning Department give full consideration to that and consult with wildlife experts to determine the increased risk to aircraft and best possible mitigation practices consistent with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines and compatible land-use criteria,” he wrote.

Collins also addressed the problem of instrument approaches being rendered useless by an increased landfill presence, noting that the FAA takes local terrain into account and applies a safety margin. Landfill growth could require higher approach minimums, he explained.

AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Dick Mesa attended a March public hearing on the proposal and registered pilots’ concerns.

Members may submit comments by April 7 to John Funderburg, Principal Planner, San Joaquin County Community Development Department, Stockton, CA 95205.