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The force descends on California's Oceanside airportThe force descends on California's Oceanside airport

The force descends on California's Oceanside airport

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Mark McClardy, FAA Western Pacific Regional
Office, Airports Division manager; Mary Frederick,
California DOT Aeronautics Division chief; Dunn;
Ben Myers, president, Oceanside Airport Association;
and Phil Puale, Rep. Darrell Issa's district director

It was an impressive display of force - AOPA, the FAA, Congressman Darrell Issa's representatives, the state of California, local pilots - all arrayed before the media to defend Oceanside Municipal Airport in Southern California.

As the local paper put it, "The city's municipal airport got a boost from the nation's largest aviation association Tuesday."

"We are committed to doing whatever it takes in any way, shape, or form to keep the Oceanside Municipal Airport open," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports.

Mark McClardy, director of the Airports Division of the FAA's Western-Pacific Region said the city could do more to make the airport profitable, and he offered FAA resources to do so. "These airports are jewels," he said. "If you lose them, you don't get them back."

And McClardy explained the federal grant process. Because Oceanside had accepted grants to buy airport land, the city was obligated to keep the airport open forever. The FAA rarely allows an airport sponsor to return the money to get out of the obligation.

In some cases, it's taken an act of Congress to close an airport. That's not likely in the case of Oceanside. Rep. Issa, who represents the Oceanside area in Washington, D.C., made that very clear.

"The Oceanside Municipal Airport continues to play a vital role in the aviation infrastructure of Southern California and needs to remain open," Rep. Issa said in a press release. "Southern California already lacks the airport capacity necessary to meet increasing aviation demands. Closing Oceanside Municipal Airport would only worsen the problem." (Rep. Issa couldn't personally be at the press event, but he sent two of his office staff to demonstrate his personal commitment to the airport.)

"I am certainly not going to be intimidated by the people on the Hill or by the pilots association," Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood told the North County Times newspaper. "I have to represent the whole city on this one."

Oceanside officials have hired a consultant to determine the airport's "highest and best use" and have retained an aviation law firm to review state and federal regulations regarding airport closings. Oceanside Airport is some of the last open land in the area. Its location next to a major California state route makes that land very attractive to developers.

June 29, 2006

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