Through the efforts of local pilots, users of Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County temporarily postponed a 30-percent increase for tiedown spots, which was scheduled to start in December. A draft business plan for the airport had suggested that county aviation officials raise tiedown rates to make the airport more self-sustaining.
The proposed large rate increase energized the Palo Alto Airport Association (PAAA) and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Bob Lenox, who were able to help forestall the increase.
However, a smaller increase did win approval and rates will increase as they normally do. For example, the tiedown rate for aircraft 3,500 pounds or less in gross weight will increase from $109 to $111.50 monthly.
Lenox and airport supporters arranged for representation before county officials at scheduled meetings, arguing that the increase was imposed abruptly and without warning. The PAAA officials said the huge increase covered an expected 10-percent loss in the number of airplanes using tiedowns because of pilots moving to other airports as a result of any proposed 30-percent increase. PAAA officials warned that the property taxes on the aircraft that might be moved would be lost to the county.
There has been a long tradition of charging the same rates at Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County as those charged at Reid-Hillview of Santa Clara County. Yet no similar large increase was proposed for Reid-Hillview, Lenox said. A PAAA statement noted: "Time is needed for public discussion and review, and a one- or two-week period does not qualify as sufficient by any standard."
Modifications to the Los Angeles Class B airspace went into effect in late December, changing the altitudes for several VFR flyways. The only problem is that, because of an internal glitch at the FAA, those changes did not appear on the back of the December 22 chart. But the FAA already has acted to correct the error, mailing a chart notice to pilots that contains the changes. An updated chart will be issued by February 16. These changes are part of the Class B modification that will shrink the airspace to the northwest, south, and southeast but expand it to the east to better protect Los Angeles International Airport. AOPA supported the changes that will enhance safety and improve traffic flow.
John Chalker, 55, of San Diego, has been appointed to the California Transportation Commission. He is a cofounder and member of the Alliance in Support of Airport Progress in the 21st Century and is a member of the board of directors for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. The position requires confirmation by the state Senate. He is currently managing director and portfolio manager for LM Capital Group, a money management firm.
Raids that occurred on the state Division of Aeronautics budget three years ago could still happen again, Division of Aeronautics officials said in a recent interview. The state administration raided the division's $7.6 million budget in past years to offset California's deficit problem. "The issue hasn't been solved legislatively," said Mary C. Frederick, acting division chief of the Division of Aeronautics.
"There is nothing on the books that would prohibit another occurrence," said Gary Cathey, chief of the Office of Airports and aviation safety officer.
AOPA fought hard a few years ago when the state administration's budget transferred funding from the aeronautics account to the general fund during California's governmentwide budget reassessment.
Faced with a huge state budget deficit, the Department of Finance moved $6 million from the aeronautics account to the general fund in fiscal year 2002/2003. In fiscal year 2003/2004, an additional $4.8 million was taken. Due in part to the efforts of AOPA and other aviation groups, and the recommendations of the California Transportation Commission (CTC), the proposed transfer of an additional $750,000 in fiscal year 2004/2005 did not occur. The fiscal year 2005/2006 budget was passed intact. The CTC's annual recommendations to the legislature for calendar year 2005 and calendar year 2006 include legislation that would dedicate to the aeronautics account those revenues derived from general aviation to be used for general aviation. To accomplish this permanently, a state constitutional amendment is required, which is no small task in California. AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer was in Sacramento on December 11 discussing this issue with the staffs of several key legislators.
The division's revenue comes from excise taxes on aviation gasoline and jet fuel sales to GA aircraft, and is used to support the Division of Aeronautics, and to provide the following for eligible airports: annual credit grants, Airport Improvement Program matching grants, and Acquisition and Development (A&D) grants. Other division activities are supported as well, such as a recent seminar aimed at community decision makers and airport directors to help them understand the value of an airport and solve noise and land-use issues.
The division will present its 2006 Aeronautics Program to fund A&D projects to the California Transportation Commission in February. The state's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. However, the division's funds are continuously appropriated as fuel sales occur. "We are concerned about declining revenues," Frederick said. General aviation jet fuel sales, contributing 2 cents per gallon to the aeronautics account, have been increasing in recent years. However, aviation gasoline sales, contributing 18 cents per gallon to the aeronautics account, are down in recent years. The net result has been a decline in revenue.
Last year California issued $1.49 million in annual credit grants and $3 million in matching grants. California has 254 public-use airports and 74,828 pilots, or 12 percent of the national total. There are 37,750 aircraft registered in California, or 11 percent of the national total.
As reported in our most recent issue (see " AOPA Action in California: AOPA Fights to Protect Bakersfield," January Pilot), some city officials are attempting to close the Bakersfield Municipal Airport and sell the land to developers. There's just one problem — the same problem as at any airport that has received federal funding: The FAA must approve. The FAA has told The Bakersfield Californian that it is not in the habit of closing airports. AOPA has already written to the FAA, urging the agency to ensure that Bakersfield abides by its contract under the grant assurances. AOPA's ASN volunteer for the Bakersfield airport, Richard H. Osborn, is watching the issue closely. Osborn has been instrumental in collecting relevant documents on the issue.
California state officials have approved the resumption of night flights at Oceanside Airport north of San Diego, which had been suspended in mid-November because trees and structures were too close to the runway, the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported.
The airport was opened after trees were removed and the complaint about structures was withdrawn. Originally Gary Cathey, the airports chief in the Department of Aeronautics, said there was a problem with a concrete retaining wall, a flood-control berm, and a driveway to the Deutsch manufacturing plant that encroached on the airport. Cathey told the newspaper the added work was no longer required.
The city said the work on structures would have taken $350,000, while the now-completed work on trees had cost only a few thousand, the newspaper reported.
The night closure had inconvenienced several pilots, three of whom needed their aircraft for business. The city reacted quickly and night flights started again in late December.
The city had intended to ask the FAA for money to handle the $350,000 in needed improvements, but the City Council has ordered the city to apply for no more grants for the airport and asked for a study of alternate uses of the land. The state was willing to allow the airport to reopen to night flights if a plan was submitted on how the $350,000 in work would be accomplished, but later dropped the requirement.
A little opposition from the City Council has never stopped a developer. Now there are two developers interested in putting housing developments near Redlands Municipal Airport.
Ryland Homes is the latest and has a plan to add 27 homes to a subdivision that now has 52 homes along San Bernardino Avenue, the San Bernardino Sun reports. Another company, Walton Development, was rebuffed by the city in October but planned at this writing to bring the issue back to the council. City officials are undecided as to whether to halt development in the airport neighborhood, the newspaper reported. Developers said they became interested in the property only after restrictions near the airport were relaxed years ago, and now see the new opposition as a reversal of previous council pronouncements.