AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer has been elected chairman of the California Transportation Commission's Technical Advisory Committee on Aeronautics for 2006-2007.
The Technical Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (TACA) is a statutorily mandated advisory committee established to advise the California Transportation Commission regarding the full range of aeronautics and aviation issues. The commission then advises the state secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing, and the legislature on plans, policies, and funding for aeronautics programs in California.
The current membership of TACA includes representatives of airport businesses, aviation divisions of large companies, pilots and aircraft owners, managers of large commercial-service airports and rural general aviation airports, and federal and state aviation agencies.
Pfeifer's election as the chairman of TACA, after serving as vice chairman for 2004-2005, ensures that general aviation continues to have a strong say in the development and implementation of aviation policies and programs in the state.
Despite federal grant obligations to keep California's Bakersfield Municipal Airport open, the city of Bakersfield is seeking approval to close it to sell the land to a developer for residential use. AOPA is working with Bakersfield Airport Support Network volunteer Richard Osborn and local pilots to preserve the airport and has asked the FAA to step in and decline any closure request from the city. The airport has received more than $10 million in Airport Improvement Program funds. "With nearly 100 based aircraft and over 25,000 operations each year, Bakersfield airport is a vital part of a statewide and national aviation system of general aviation airports," wrote Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports, in a letter to the FAA. "Clearly, the FAA recognizes the importance of this strategically located airport and has included it within the FAA National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems."
A majority of the board of directors of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District are exploring whether they can gain the right to impose local restrictions on aircraft traffic by refusing federal funding and the restrictions that go along with it. Attorney Peter Kirsch addressed the board on the topic of defederalizing the airport. Asked why his focus was on defederalizing, he answered that he had been requested to do so. His visit was free because he has not yet been retained. Airport supporters have told the board that refusing federal money to improve the airport is irresponsible. A wide variety of ways to mitigate noise problems for the community were mentioned, including airport purchase of heavily affected property.
Funding of noise monitors requested by neighbors who complain about jet noise distracted the Livermore City Council from discussing what pilots really wanted to hear, the building of 62 small hangars and 19 large ones. The Tri-Valley Herald reported that 272 people are on the waiting list for hangars at Livermore Municipal Airport. Pleasanton will be asked to pay part of the $170,000 needed for five solar-powered noise monitors, two of which will be in Pleasanton. The neighbors who complained about the jet noise also oppose the building of hangars, especially larger ones that could house jets. Airport supporter Jay Cotton of the Coalition for Livermore Airport said the monitors will show what he already knows, that there is no noise problem, the newspaper reported. A report prepared for the meeting, one that was not discussed, said the smaller hangars will cost $1.8 million while the larger ones will cost $2.9 million, the newspaper article said.
Acrimony that had existed since a jet FBO expansion project took away existing aircraft tiedowns and small hangars at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad was patched up recently with the start of construction on a new tiedown area.
Some of the 90 pilots evicted had found other space at the airport, the North County Times reported, but some had to move to airports that were a 30- to 45-minute drive away. AOPA had helped local pilots file a formal complaint (by law, the association couldn't be a direct party to the complaint) with the FAA, but the agency rejected the pilots' claims that they were being unfairly evicted last July. The FAA did, however, "strongly encourage" the airport sponsor to develop additional aircraft parking facilities.
The new tiedown area, capable of accommodating more than 130 airplanes, will sit atop 10 feet of dirt covering a huge oil/water separator, an underground tank big enough to drive a semitrailer truck into. County and FAA funding covers much of the total cost of the $6.7 million project.
The groundbreaking was attended by a number of AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers as well as representatives of the California Pilots Association, Community Airfields Association of San Diego, Oceanside Airport Association, Carlsbad Airport Association, and Palomar Airport Pilots Association.
Encroachments into a required safety zone have forced the state Division of Aeronautics to suspend nighttime operations at Oceanside Municipal Airport, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The encroachments are reported by the paper to be trees, a retaining wall, a flood berm, and a driveway. Those safety problems can be corrected and the corrections are part of planned improvements to the airport, but they lack funding, the newspaper reported. In other Oceanside news, the City Council has delayed action on a request by 60 airport supporters to build more hangars until a land use study on the airport can be completed.
Redlands city officials have voted 5-0 against an 81-home subdivision because it was determined to be too close to the Redlands Municipal Airport. The project had been delayed five months because the city questioned whether the homes should be close to the flight path of airplanes and helicopters. The Walton Development project would have been built on 42 acres south of the airport, the newspaper reported. The developer, however, said through a representative that he plans to appeal. The developer feels he followed all the rules required for the project, and that the only reason for the denial was pressure from airport supporters.
Austin Wiswell has retired as chief of the California Department of Transportation's Division of Aeronautics. Wiswell has been the division chief since 2001. In that position, he was responsible for the oversight and management of all the state's airport grant programs, planning, land-use-compatibility-guideline development, safety and compliance inspections, and airport noise standards.
California Regional Representative John Pfeifer praised Wiswell for his advocacy of general aviation and said that AOPA looks forward to developing a strong working relationship with his successor, who is expected to be named in the near future.
Prior to being selected as the division chief, Wiswell served two years as a field inspector and chief of the Office of Airports. He is also a former airport manager, having served at the Yolo County-Davis/Woodland/Winters Airport in California and the Sedona Airport in Arizona.
Before entering the world of civil aviation, Wiswell completed a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force as a staff officer and fighter pilot. He is a general aviation pilot and AOPA member.
His tenure as division chief was characterized by his tireless advocacy of general aviation and airport development. He was always available to civic groups, city councils, boards of supervisors, and professional organizations to speak on the importance of aviation and the impact of aviation and airports on the state and local economy. He became well known in aviation circles as a highly effective motivational speaker.