All five Los Angeles County airports are under new management. Brackett Field, Compton Airport, El Monte Airport, General William J. Fox Airfield, and Whiteman Airport had been under a management contract with Comarco for several years. But Comarco recently announced that it had been acquired by American Airports Corporation (AAC) of Santa Monica. AAC will take over management of all five airports.
AAC, which was founded in 1997 for the express purpose of managing airports, has said that it will develop a business plan for each of the five county-owned airports. AAC has also said that it has the ability to finance and develop property surrounding airports as necessary. AAC already manages several airports in the Southeast.
In a move supported by AOPA, A.B.1966 has been amended to change the way possessory interest taxes are assessed. The amended bill would mean that someone newly leasing a hangar at a publicly owned airport will not be taxed on the possessory interest at the start of the lease. Instead, the first tax bill will be issued the next fiscal year.
The change, which has the support of the state Board of Equalization and the Los Angeles County assessor, tries to eliminate the inequity of charging a tax on possessory interest in cases where the interest is terminated before the end of the fiscal year. In June, AOPA wrote a letter to the chairman of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, expressing support for the amended bill.
The California State Association of Counties and the State Department of Finance oppose the change on the grounds that it would cut revenue to counties by an estimated $200,000 annually. Despite this opposition, the bill successfully passed out of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee and will now go before both houses of the legislature for a vote.
In spite of the efforts of AOPA and local pilots, Natomas Airport, located just north of downtown Sacramento, has closed after a long battle. The privately owned general aviation airport, which had about 50 based aircraft, has been under fire over "safety concerns" for several years. The airport's problems began with residential encroachment and the development of the nearby Arco Arena, a large sports complex. As development closed in on the airport, local elected officials began to call for its shutdown.
The American Aero Club, which was long based at Natomas Airport, was expected to relocate its nearly 20 aircraft to Rancho Murieta Airport, east of Sacramento.
Caltrans Aeronautics, local pilots, and the City of Watsonville are working toward a compromise on a proposal to build a high school under the traffic pattern of Watsonville Municipal Airport. The plans to build the school were first brought to AOPA's attention by Airport Support Network Volunteer Kerrick Philleo.
The airport has been suffering from encroaching development for several years, and some airport supporters feared that the proposal to build a high school so close to the airport was the first move in an attempt to close the field. In recent years, the airport has been at the heart of a number of encroachment issues, including plans to build a hospital near it.
In a recent meeting with Caltrans, AOPA expressed its concern that the agency follow the guidelines in its own Airport Land Use Planning Handbook in evaluating the school proposal. Caltrans officials assured AOPA that they would follow the handbook guidelines and would not approve the school proposal unless it meets the criteria outlined in the book.
In the meantime, Caltrans has been working with state, local, and federal officials as well as local pilot groups to reach a compromise on the proposed development. One solution would extend the existing Runway 2/20 by 800 feet, thereby moving the traffic pattern away from the high school site. The Watsonville Pilots Association and the airport manager support the compromise plan, which would also prohibit any additional development in the area and protect the airport from future encroachment.
The Oxnard Airport Mission Statement Committee has proposed closing the airport by August 2005. The committee, which was created by the Oxnard Airport Authority to write a mission statement for the field, was part of an effort to improve communication between residents, airport users, and airport officials.
The panel reached the conclusion after several months of discussions that the 65-year-old airport should be closed. The issue was scheduled to go before the airport authority for review in September.
The committee, which is made up of five aviation and tourism advocates and five community members, voted five to three to close the field. One member of the group was out of town at the time of the vote, and a second walked out of the proceedings. The decision comes at a time when America West was planning to initiate service from Oxnard to Phoenix beginning in November. With extensive Federal Airport Improvement Program funding already invested in the airport, it's unlikely that anti-airport factions will succeed in this latest attempt to restrict Oxnard airport. Approval from the FAA would be required, but the proposal is unlikely to get FAA backing. However, if the airport is closed, some 150 aircraft based there will be forced to relocate, with many likely to move to Camarillo Airport—which is not able to accommodate that much traffic, according to airport officials.
AOPA recently attended a meeting of the Auburn Airport Association. The airport is currently in the process of a major runway rehabilitation and extension project. Many of the 90 people attending the meeting expressed concern over runway closures during construction and the way the airport is being managed by the City of Auburn.
AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer David Gagnon arranged to have Jack Kemmerly, AOPA's regional representative for California, speak at the meeting. Kemmerly briefed airport association members on several state legislative bills that are now pending and on current state law relating to airport land use. Members of the group expressed interest in having continued guidance from AOPA as they deal with the city on airport issues.
AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Leo Saunders has assembled a group of pilots, pilot organizations, FBOs, and other airport property users to support an economic study of Buchanan Field in Concord. The economic study was recently completed and was scheduled to be presented to a subcommittee of the county Board of Supervisors. Once the subcommittee has accepted the study, the entire board will have the opportunity to hear and, Saunders hopes, accept the report.
AOPA's Airport Support Network volunteer at Chico Municipal Airport, Brian Baldridge, is working with the city to create a new comprehensive land use plan for the airport.
Recently, the Chico City Council voted unanimously to overrule an amendment to the airport's land use plan that had been adopted last December by the Butte County Airport Land Use Commission. The amendment was intended to be a stopgap measure to protect the airport from encroaching development pending the completion of the Chico Municipal Airport's master plan update and new comprehensive land use plan, scheduled for later this year. In overruling the amendment, the Chico City Council recommended that all proposed developments continue to be reviewed by the airport land use commission.
Baldridge said that he is looking forward to working with the city and its new council members to create a new land use plan for the airport.
AOPA Expo 2000 will be in Long Beach, California. You can register at the door for one, two, or all three days of general aviation at its best.
AOPA Expo runs from October 20 through October 22. There will be more than 500 exhibits, 80 aircraft in the static display, 82 different seminar topics, and 70 product demonstrations you don't want to miss. Exciting social events will include the scandalously funny Capitol Steps (sponsored by Audi of America) performing live at the Sunday night closing banquet.
Exhibit hall passes include unlimited access to the exhibit hall, static aircraft display (and transportation to it), exhibitor product demonstrations, and the general sessions—all for $30 per day.
Seminar/exhibit hall passes include everything listed above with the exhibit hall pass plus access to the entire seminar program for $45 per day.
Tickets to the social events may be purchased on-site as space allows.
Make your plans today to be in Long Beach, California, on October 20, 21, and 22 for the biggest and best AOPA Expo ever. For information, call toll-free 888/GO2-EXPO or visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/expo/).