October 1, 1999
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
In a strongly worded letter to the FAA, AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Bill Dunn declared AOPA's opposition to an application to impose a passenger facility charge (PFC) at San Jose International Airport, and recommended that the airport be prohibited from receiving any federal funding until it complies with an FAA decision ending a mandatory curfew at the airport.
In the letter, Dunn pointed out that AOPA believes the airport has violated its responsibilities under the Airport Improvement Program by enforcing an apparently illegal curfew on airport users. The problems began in 1984 when the San Jose City Council created a curfew as part of its Airport Noise Control Program. The curfew prohibited certain aircraft operations between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. But in 1987, the FAA disapproved the implementation of a weight-based curfew at the airport, saying that the city lacked the documentation required to justify the curfew. Although this decision allowed the city to request airport users to comply with the curfew voluntarily, the city has continued to enforce the curfew as mandatory by sending harassing letters threatening large fines, banishment from the airport, and administrative and legal action for those who do not comply.
This action, according to AOPA's letter, violates the airport's assurances under the Airport Improvement Program, which has provided the airport with more than $100 million in federal grants for development and improvements since 1982. The program assurances also allow the FAA to "terminate authority to impose a PFC" if the airport fails to comply with the requirements of the improvement program.
Airport Support Network volunteer Gary Parsons has thrown his hat into the ring for one of two open seats on the Hawthorne City Council. Parsons, who works with AOPA to support the interests of general aviation at Jack Northrop Field/Hawthorne Municipal Airport, has received the endorsement of Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi despite the mayor's opposition to Parsons' vocal efforts to protect the airport and prevent the city from closing the field. The city council election is scheduled for November 2.
Earlier this year, Hawthorne Municipal was threatened with closure when a developer wanted to use the land to build a shopping complex. The airport is a key reliever for Los Angeles International Airport.
In a move that aviation officials and airport supporters believe will be good for Hayward Air Terminal, Home Depot plans to open a store on airport property. After considering the proposal to build the home-improvement store on airport property, the FAA, Caltrans Aeronautics, and airport managers agreed that the development plan would help to support the airport, even though it is not an aviation-related project. The land has been designated for nonairport use, and the building project has been determined to be compatible with the airport. An unspecified amount of money from the development will go to the airport.
Two AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers have been named to serve on the newly created Airports Advisory Committee for Humboldt County. David Ravetti, ASN volunteer at Arcata/Eureka Airport, and Al Cataldi, ASN volunteer at Murray Field in Eureka, will help to represent the interests of general aviation to the county's supervisors. The committee was formed earlier this year by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to provide guidance and suggestions concerning aviation matters within the county. Humboldt County owns and operates several small general aviation airports, including Arcata/Eureka and Murray Field.
The Torrance City Council is expected to vote on a proposed aviation-related development for 16 acres of airport property. The airport land-use commission (ALUC) voted six to one to approve the project. The proposal has also received the support of the city staff and airport users. The development would include 114 hangars and 59,000 square feet of office space for fixed-base operators and other aviation-related businesses. A competing development proposal, which would have included 33 hangars and more than 180,000 square feet of office space, was rejected. Airport users, including members of the Torrance Airport Association, have expressed their support for the development, saying it could prevent the property from being converted to nonaviation uses.
Pilots and city officials in Dunsmuir were trying to reach an agreement over tree removal as a September deadline approached. The trees have been identified as a hazard to the approach and transition to Runway 14/32 at Dunsmuir Muncipal-Mott Airport.
The city was ordered to remove the trees several years ago but requested a waiver from the FAA in 1995. That waiver was denied because the trees were determined to be a hazard to air navigation.
City, forestry, state aeronautics, and engineering representatives have met to plan for the tree removal. After conducting a survey and receiving bids on the project, officials had to put the tree removal on hold while they searched for a source of funding. Caltrans Aeronautics had previously pledged financial support to assist with the tree removal, and city officials said that they hoped to pay for the project with existing airport grant monies, but funding remained uncertain at press time.
The trees became a hot issue earlier this year when the state suspended the airport's permit and ordered the airport to be closed because of the hazard posed by the trees. A negotiated settlement allowed the airport to remain open during daylight hours while the tree removal was accomplished.
The California Pilots Association recently sponsored a workshop for airport land-use commission (ALUC) staff members, airport managers, local government planning officials, and others interested in protecting airports. The workshop, which was held in Redding, was based on the Caltrans Aeronautics Program Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, which ALUCs use to formulate a comprehensive airport land-use plan. That handbook is in revision. The new guidelines for airport land-use planning are expected to be available by early next year.
Pilots flying into Truckee-Tahoe Airport should be aware that the airport is in the middle of a major renovation project. The improvements, which are expected to cost close to $2 million, include construction of additional hangars and improvements to the ramps. While airport users are excited about the airport improvements, transient pilots may have trouble finding parking. Jim Dean, Airport Support Network volunteer for the field, recommends that incoming pilots place fuel orders through the unicom upon arrival to minimize construction-related delays. He adds that information about the construction is available to pilots 24 hours a day on the airport's unicom frequency.
A series of construction projects designed to make Ranchaero Airport more user-friendly has been under way at the Chico airfield. Among the projects undertaken by airport owner Gary Grigg are the construction of eight hangars and an equal number of tiedowns, which offer transient pilots the option of camping under the wing. In addition, new taxiways have improved access to the airport's 2,300-foot asphalt runway.
Lake Tahoe Airport has become a favorite gathering place for local coyotes. Some airport users say the animals have been known to chase taxiing aircraft, block the runway, and chew on aircraft tires. The FAA has asked the airport to find an acceptable solution to the coyote problem, although some airport users claim to prefer the wild dogs to the birds and rodents that otherwise populate the airport grounds.
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
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