The U.S. Navy has begun a sophisticated campaign to create a new military operations area (MOA) over Lemoore Naval Air Station in California's Central Valley, immediately southwest of Fresno. But AOPA is questioning the need for the Lemoore MOA.
"It's hard to see the need for this additional MOA considering the huge expanse of special-use airspace that exists already just minutes east of the air station," said Heidi Williams, AOPA manager of air traffic. "The Navy says they have to fly up to 200 miles to get to some of its training areas. What they neglect to mention is some 18,000 square miles of existing military operations and restricted areas that they fly through to get to the training areas mentioned.
"If there is some reason why they can't use the nearby Foothill, Porterville, Baskersfield, Bishop, Owens, and Isabella MOAs, perhaps they'd be willing to give that airspace back to civilian pilots."
The Navy proposes to create a 30- by 70-mile MOA with vertical limits of 5,000 feet to 35,000 feet. The MOA boundaries would be just inside portions of Victor airways V230, V107, V248, and V23. They say they need the airspace for high-altitude training flights for FA-18 Hornets based at Lemoore and California Air National Guard F-16 Falcons flying out of Fresno.
And the Navy is getting its ducks in a row on this one. They have begun a sophisticated public outreach, including a Web site, and have already convinced some California legislators to introduce resolutions supporting the MOA.
But they haven't convinced some local governments. The City of Hanford, whose airport would be covered by the MOA, has already objected.
"The MOA as proposed represents a restrictive presence for both VFR and IFR traffic transiting the area, as well as through the broad mid-section of the state of California that the MOA encompasses, and as such carries with it definite economic implications in the near and long term," the city wrote the Navy. The city said that because of the importance of general aviation to its economy, it was "duty bound" to "pursue a course that preserves and protects uninhibited, cost-effective general aviation air travel to and from Hanford."
The city asked for either a five-mile-wide corridor through the MOA or that the Navy raise the base of the airspace to 15,000 feet. The Navy is currently in the environmental assessment phase of its proposal, collecting data on the impacts of the proposed MOA.
General aviation pilots are encouraged to send their comments via e-mail to Lemr_csfwpmoa@navy.mil, or by writing to the following address:
Commander Strike Fighter Wing
U.S. Pacific Fleet (Code N30)
(Attn: Lemoore MOA)
001 K Street
NAS Lemoore, California 93246-5022
Sometimes no news is good news. The California legislature didn't transfer $745,000 left over from last year's aeronautical budget into the general fund as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed. Last year a large amount of aeronautics funding was lost to the general fund to bring down the state's catastrophic budget deficit, and the proposal would have increased the total taken. A budget conference committee — six members in all — saved the aeronautics funding as a compromise between the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget.
Of those on that committee, Budget committee staff says, Assemblyman Rick Keene was the key supporter. Sen. Wesley Chesbro, a Democrat and head of the California Senate Budget Committee, also supported the move.
A staff member said Keene's support became a source of good-natured kidding by other committee members. After the aviation money — most of it earmarked for rural airports — was saved, Keene continued to fight additional battles to restore funds in non-aviation areas of the budget. "But Rick," other conferees would chide, "you already got your rural airports taken care of!" Several other members of the committee, also from rural areas, were sympathetic to Keene's defense of airport funding.
There was an overriding reason why Keene was so successful, a Budget Committee staff member said: $745,000 wasn't enough to make a dent in a multi-billion-dollar deficit. (However, not all recommended cuts of similar size were restored.) Had it been a larger amount it would have been more likely to be transferred to the general fund. The staff member said that is why schools lost $2 billion — it was a tempting target that could help to more rapidly reduce the deficit.
AOPA Regional Representative John Pfeifer and the Association of California Airports had lobbied against aeronautics budget transfers for two years, and made a few friends in the legislature in the process. Pfeifer brought airport managers directly to Senate and Assembly offices so legislators could hear of the budget impact directly from airport managers most affected.
Eviction notices are flying at San Diego's McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, and pilots aren't happy. A group of pilots filed a formal complaint this week with the FAA, saying a new FBO catering to corporate clients is unjustly forcing them out with no viable alternatives.
AOPA staff worked closely with local pilots through AOPA's Airport Support Network volunteer Rick Baker in preparing a formal Part 16 complaint. The association is also asking the FAA to act quickly on the complaint.
The leaseholder for the property in the center of the airport, Palomar Airport Center, plans to demolish existing T-hangars and replace them with large hangars for corporate tenants. The company has delivered eviction notices to more than 100 pilots and four businesses in the airport's core area, effective September 30.
"Throwing aircraft owners and well-established businesses out in the street is not only unconscionable, it violates federal regulations," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. "That is why we have asked the FAA to prevent this discriminatory action."
The airport is one of eight general aviation airports operated by San Diego County and the only one of the group that has an ILS approach.
A Part 16 complaint is a formal process in which someone materially affected by an airport sponsor's action can allege that the airport has violated its agreements with the FAA. The FAA is required to investigate the complaint.
Hangars aren't the only issue at the airport. More homes are under construction in the Bressi Ranch subdivision that will be affected by noise. AOPA is watching the issue closely.
Pilots in the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District, one of nine in California, will want to closely follow the pending election of district directors: the Truckee-Tahoe Airport is under fire from a citizen's group that wants to limit airport operations. Three of five airport district seats are up for grabs.
The group is called CARE, or Community Airport Restoration Effort, and intends to promote Reno as the primary provider of air service to the Truckee-Tahoe region, according to the California Pilots Association and AOPA Regional Representative John Pfeifer. What it cares about is not restoration. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Tim LoDolce warns, "If CARE is successful in their campaign to elect their candidates to the board at this November's election, it's anyone's guess what the future will hold for the airport."
Although "restoration" is a part of the group's name, it appears the candidates they support as airport district directors will be non-pilots whose sole aim is to reduce noise and protect their property values. It is interesting to note that the group wants to also reduce "negative impact" on visitors, given that airport operations draw a large number of visitors who then eat in the town's restaurants and stay in its hotels.
After bids came in $1 million higher than the cash available, Solano County supervisors abandoned a project to build 40 hangars at Nut Tree airport and returned the nearly $1 million in loan money to the state, according to The Reporter in Vacaville. A lot of pilots had been on the waiting list for hangars.
Costs rose due to unexpected delays, the paper reported, and increases in steel and concrete prices. The airport is currently without a manager, following the retirement of John Swizer.
Another problem was an inadequate water line that would support firefighting operations for the expanded airport. The cost of replacing it could reach $300,000, The Reporter article indicated.
Despite the setback, other projects are continuing, namely FAA-funded wash rack and taxiway projects.
Long Beach Convention Center will be the home of AOPA Expo 2004 October 21 through 23. AOPA Expo brings together everything for general aviation pilots in one location. More than 75 seminars are planned and more than 70 aircraft will be on display with 500 industry exhibitors in attendance. The free general sessions feature FAA Administrator Marion Blakey via satellite on Thursday, Rear Adm. David Stone, head of the Transportation Security Administration on Friday, and an update from AOPA Headquarters on Saturday. For more information, call 888/GO2-Expo (462-3976) or visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/expo/).