AOPA Action in California

What AOPA is doing for California members

October 1, 2005

L.A. airspace changes coming

The FAA announced changes to the Los Angeles Class B airspace that will shrink the airspace to the northwest, south, and southeast but expand it to the east to better protect Los Angeles International Airport.

The change cuts out about 100 square miles from the Class B airspace. AOPA staff had filed comments in May supporting the change that would benefit general aviation by enhancing safety and improving traffic flow.

The FAA worked with the Southern California Airspace Users Working Group, of which AOPA is a member, to develop the modifications. "This is clearly another example of how airspace modifications should be handled," said Heidi Williams, AOPA manager of air traffic services. "It shows that the FAA can work with local airspace users to create changes that are positive for everyone." The rule becomes effective December 22.

Residential development near Torrance opposed

AOPA staff has warned the Torrance planning manager to prepare for a flood of noise complaints if a new residential development is approved at 2740 Lomita Boulevard.

The multifamily development sits within the extended airport boundary and would subject residents to 75 to 85 decibels of aircraft noise, well above the 65-decibel level that the FAA considers significant impact. Currently the land is zoned heavy industrial.

"The association asks that the city consider this drastic restructuring of its land-use planning as a potential open door for future citizen complaints, like those generated from nearby New Horizons community," AOPA Airports Vice President Bill Dunn told Planning Manager Jane Isomoto. New Horizons is more than double the distance from the airport than the proposed community, yet its residents account for nearly half of the annual noise complaints to the city about the airport, Dunn said.

Santa Paula Airport reopens, businesses back

The flood damage that ate part of the runway at Santa Paula Airport earlier this year has been partially repaired enough to reopen the runway. A flight school that had moved operations to another airport has returned, although it is keeping open its temporary office at Oxnard Airport.

There is still 150 feet of land toward the river to fill, work that will hopefully be completed by October 3, and if federal Fish and Game Department officials approve, a rock slope protection will be built atop the fill. Everything on the surface of the fill dirt, such as paving and tiedowns, must be paid for by the Santa Paula Airport Association, said association President Rowena Mason.

The airport association already owes $235,000 for the emergency work that was done to prevent further damage. The association has obtained a $695,000 loan from the Small Business Administration that must be repaid by members, but fortunately it can be paid over time. The money will cover the cost of the new tiedowns.

The runway was completed in time for the airport's seventy-fifth anniversary celebration in August. While the airport did not make a profit on the celebration that would have helped pay for repairs, it at least broke even, Mason said. The airport is using low fuel prices to lure the return of traffic, but with the current fuel price situation Mason said she was not sure how long the lower fuel prices could be maintained.

'Stealth amendment' in Congress kills Rialto airport

Despite AOPA's best efforts to stop it, the "stealth amendment" passed Congress, granting the city of Rialto special dispensation to sell Rialto Municipal/Miro Field. That amendment had been slipped into the conference negotiations over the massive highway funding bill.

AOPA had lobbied members of the conference committee, including senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), to strip out the section of the bill affecting Rialto. All expressed strong opposition to the special exemption for Rialto, but Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) was "able to persuade lawmakers to leave the land transfer language in," Jim Specht, a spokesman for Lewis, told the Press-Enterprise newspaper of Riverside, California. Lewis represents the Riverside District next to Rialto. He is also chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Rialto city officials have been trying for the past four years to close the airport in favor of more profitable development of the land adjacent to the Interstate 210 extension now under construction. Well-financed developers have been pushing the levers of power to make it possible for the city to sell the airport.

The Rialto airport has been in decline for a number of years, even closing the taxiway at times for drag racing. The airport has become less attractive in part because of city neglect, but another factor is the plethora of area airports. Ten other GA airports are located within 20 nautical miles of Rialto, including the former Norton Air Force Base, which became San Bernardino International Airport with a 10,000-foot-long runway and plenty of expansion room. The San Bernardino airport is only 8.5 nautical miles from Rialto Municipal/Miro Field.

AOPA had worked hard to keep the airport open, including trying to rally local pilots, lobbying city officials, and testifying at several public hearings. But the "perfect storm" of a cash-strapped city, well-connected developers, and willing congressional representatives trumped the generally muted response of local pilots.

"We hate losing any airport," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "and we'll continue to do everything within our power to keep GA airports open and vibrant. If there's any consolation, it's that it literally took an act of Congress to kill this one."

Developer ends pursuit of Concord airport

Shapell Industries, whose officials once reportedly said they had never lost a development battle, has given up on a plan to close Concord's Buchanan Field and turn it into a housing development, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times. The company's efforts were thwarted by the FAA's requirement that an alternative airport must be created, or an existing one expanded, before one that has accepted federal funds can be closed. Shapell officials couldn't find a suitable site.

Even if they had, the FAA had warned in a letter a year ago that approval of such a plan would be extremely rare, and probably the plan would be disapproved in the case of Buchanan Field.

There was a lot at stake. One of the developer's officials in charge of pushing the deal through against enormous odds had planned to retire on the sales commission from the deal and start a political career in Delaware.

One problem with the deal was the poor choice of alternative sites. One was a landfill on a hill overlooking the airport. Aside from the enormous fill required to level the area for the proposed main runway, and the gas manifolds sticking out of the ground to siphon off methane gas, the hill had constant strong crosswinds for the proposed runway. The Contra Costa Times reports that the latest choice site was between Highway 4 and the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline. It was plagued by hills and fog and was inconveniently remote for pilots basing their aircraft there. Other sites were either not for sale or had other constraints.

Shapell was to have presented a new location on September 20 and had been trying to close Buchanan Field for development since 2003. The idea was first proposed by Contra Costa Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier, who now says the county should focus on helping the existing airport. AOPA was heavily involved in the Buchanan Field battle.

Radio tower at Fullerton opposed

AOPA has commented on the rebuilding of a 760-foot-tall radio tower in the traffic pattern at Fullerton Municipal Airport. Two people were killed and the tower was destroyed when a Cessna 182 struck the tower December 19, 2004. The collision was the second time the tower had been struck by an aircraft.

Shortly after the accident, AOPA sent a letter to the FAA's regional director to state the association's concerns about the tower's hazardous location and the fear that it would be rebuilt.

"Building a 760-foot-tall antenna tower in the traffic pattern of an airport is an obvious hazard," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "This tower has been involved in two accidents with three fatalities. The NTSB hasn't even completed its accident investigation, and it is premature for the tower owner to even consider rebuilding the structure before the facts surrounding the latest fatalities are known."

AOPA would like to see the tower proponent focus its efforts on finding a new location that does not put innocent pilots and passengers at risk.

The radio antenna tower was built near the airport in 1947 before the development of the FAA's current obstruction regulations. Another accident occurred in 1970 and resulted in one fatality. Both that accident and the December accident occurred in day-VFR conditions. Lack of lighting during daytime visual conditions made the tower more difficult to spot, increasing the hazard to pilots flying in the traffic pattern. The tower sponsor is proposing to add a 24-hour medium-intensity white obstruction lighting system to the replacement tower.

Upcoming aviation events in California

October

1 — Hesperia. Hesperia Airport (L26). Airport Day. Call 760/956-3033.

8-9 — Mariposa. Marisposa Yosemite Airport. Fly-In. Call 209/966-7081.

8 — Truckee. Truckee-Tahoe Airport (TRK). Pancake Breakfast. Call 530/587-4811.

15-16 — Rubidoux. Flabob Airport (RIR). Aerocoupes Fly-In and Air Show. Call 909/446-8410.


"Calendar" is updated weekly on the Web ( www.aopa.org/pilot/calendar/). Weekend flying destinations are posted each Friday in AOPA ePilot.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

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.