AOPA tells Calif. county closing Buchanan Field 'not an option'

August 11, 2003

Mr. Mark DeSaulnier
Supervisor
Contra Costa County
2425 Bisso Lane
Ste. 110
Concord, CA 94520

Dear Supervisor DeSaulnier:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the world's largest aviation association representing more than 400,000 members nationwide. With more than 49,170 members in California, AOPA is vitally concerned about protecting aviation and airports throughout California and the entire United States.

Our members have alerted us to your efforts in seeking plans from developers to redevelop Buchanan Field (CCR) for uses other than as an airport. AOPA is very concerned about your actions and is vigorously opposed to any effort to close Buchanan Field.

We are surprised that as a public official, you would publicly promote this idea, setting up unrealistic expectation that it is possible to close the airport. The airport is important to the county, and several agreements with the federal government bind the county to maintain the property as an airport. These agreements include a surplus property agreement and associated property deed restriction that very clearly restrict what the county may do with the airport, as well as the county's acceptance of federal aid to airport development. AOPA does not take your initiative to close the airport lightly and asks that you reconsider your position on Buchanan Field.

As the airport sponsor, Contra Costa County has accepted more than $13.4 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant money for airport improvements since 1984. As a condition of accepting grant money, the county entered into a contractual agreement with the federal government. This agreement obligates the county to preserve the use of the facility as a public-use airport.

Buchanan Field was given to Contra Costa County as surplus military property in a 1946 agreement. A condition of that agreement is that the property is either operated as an airport, or the property will revert back to the federal government. We feel it is impracticable to consider redevelopment options of that property when the federal government has not given its consent to do so.

Given these federal agreements, and the importance of Buchanan Field as a public airport that supports the local businesses, industry, and economy, we believe it is completely inappropriate for Contra Costa County to consider options to close and redevelop Buchanan Field. Simply put, the only development option available for Buchanan Field is as an airport—and this is good for the county!

Buchanan Field is home to more than 580 aircraft, supports 156,896 flight operations annually, and is included in the Federal Aviation Administration's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, making it a facility critical to the public benefit as a part of the national transportation system.

Every airport in the United States is vital. Federal agreements such as the ones now in place at Buchanan Field are designed to preserve our nation's interest in maintaining a unified, balanced national air transportation system. AOPA will use all resources available to us to ensure the existing federal agreements are upheld and Buchanan Field is not allowed to close.

Rather than exploring continued discussions about airport closure and redevelopment options, AOPA asks for your support in promoting the airport and exploring ways in which the airport can be the cornerstone for the development and economic well-being of your community.

Sincerely,

Bill Dunn
Vice President
Airports

Cc: Supervisor John Gioia
Supervisor Gayle B. Uilkema
Supervisor Federal D. Glover
Woodie Woodward, FAA Association Administrator, Airports

August 11, 2003