Technically it's not in violation of land-use plans, but 1,350 homes are proposed close enough to Camarillo Airport to cause concern about homeowner complaints affecting airport operations. AOPA is opposed to the development, since historically home developments near airports have led to homeowner complaints that put pressure on the airport to reduce or restrict operations.
City officials have delayed consideration of the proposal until late September or early October to allow advisory board and airport officials to review the plan. Because of a communications error the plan was recorded as sent to airport officials by the city but was never received at airport offices.
"I am on record as saying I am not excited about it," said Todd McNamee, director of airports (he also oversees Oxnard), "but it is conditionally acceptable." Those conditions, imposed by the airport land-use commission, include the developer agreeing to let the airport have avigation rights above the homes. That means airplane traffic and airplane noise is allowed. Also, the developer will be required to inform residents specifically that airplane noise may affect their outdoor activities. But another requirement, one not controlled by the airport, may have more impact on the developer's decision to proceed or abandon the development plans. The developer will be required to pay for a $30 million highway interchange to support traffic caused by the development.
Pressure, from you, from AOPA, from federal and state officials, and from the San Diego city attorney, got to Sunroad Enterprises and Mayor Jerry Sanders. Shortly after Sanders reversed himself and ordered a nearly completed 180-foot office building near Montgomery Field reduced to 160 feet, the developer itself said it would comply.
But there are other issues. Sunroad attorneys now say there needs to be a determination on who pays for the company's failure to check with the FAA before the new office building was built. That means the building remains nearly completed at 180 feet while legal issues are settled. There won't be a trial on the matter until October, and even if the issue of who pays for reduction of the building is settled, a Sunroad attorney still hasn't promised to meet the 160-foot height. The height will be determined in negotiations with the city, the attorney said. What about the two additional buildings in the same location that were to be constructed to a height that triggers the FAA's determination of a hazard to air navigation? No word or promises yet.
And Sunroad has other plans for buildings in San Diego that also trigger FAA hazard warnings. Sunroad has proposed two hotel towers, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, a half-mile from Lindbergh Field, the international airport, that exceed FAA guidelines. One exceeds the limit by 125 feet while the other exceeds the air hazard limit by 69 feet. Following the same pattern as at Montgomery Field, Sunroad says the same private consultant has found that the proposed buildings are not a problem for aircraft.
In a reversal, Mayor Sanders had in late June directed Development Services Director Marcela Escobar-Eck to issue a second stop-work order on the building, already fully framed, at Montgomery Field. Prior to the stop-work order, Sanders had proposed a solution which appeared to be the same as the Sunroad developer had suggested a year ago: move the airplanes out of the building's way, as opposed to keeping the building out of the way of airplanes.
The nonpilot mayor had wanted in May to work with the FAA to move circle-to-land approaches from the north side of the field where there is an industrial area, to the south side of the field above a residential area. AOPA had planned at press time to meet with the FAA to warn against the idea. "This is a textbook example of how the outcome of a complex airport advocacy issue can be influenced when there is a concerted effort by those affected," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre had contacted AOPA seeking assistance.
Removal and mitigation of the top portion of the building at Montgomery Field was to be completed by August 25, and a plan for that was to have been presented to the city by July 10.
AOPA has joined county and state aviation officials in opposing a reduction in the size of the extended approach and departure zone for Runway 34 at Bakersfield Municipal Airport. The reduction takes away open space needed for pilots in emergency situations, said John Collins, AOPA senior liaison for airports. He noted the proposed area is set for high-density development. "Noise does not magically decrease by drawing a line on a map," Collins said.
Years ago the city originally established a larger than recommended zone at the same site to protect the airport from the encroachment of development. "We fail to understand why city leaders would want to take a step backward and undo what clearly is in the best interest of local citizens and residents who live near the airport," Collins wrote in a letter to W. Edward Blockley, chairman of the Planning Commission of the City of Bakersfield.
From the view of homeowners who have complained, the jets at Santa Monica have to go. There has been sympathy from the city leaders for that sentiment, but not from the FAA that wants to keep the airport available to all levels of traffic. From the airport officials' point of view, there is a compromise that, while allowing most jets, would make them travel in and out with a lighter load. It is a "safety" issue, airport officials say.
Santa Monica Airport Director Robert Trimborn said he is talking with the FAA about bringing the airport into compliance with present-day safety standards, given the new regulations that have evolved since the days when Douglas Aircraft DC-6 and -7 aircraft were built there.
Trimborn said two 600-foot safety areas proposed by the airport commission at each end would require the larger jets to use a "declared" distance, although the appearance of runway markings would not change, and many of the larger ones would have to take off with a lighter load. That would improve performance and safety margins for takeoff and landing, he said.
There were no regulations or circulars requiring safety areas when the airport was built. In those days, Douglas used to test huge radial engines installed on the DC-6 and -7 aircraft 24 hours a day, seven days a week and making a huge roar over local neighborhoods. But the neighborhood consisted of Douglas employees back then.
Opponents of jet traffic have tried to characterize the issue as one of jet noise. Trimborn said it is actually one of jet safety and bringing the airport into compliance with modern regulations. "No one has ever done what we are trying to do," Trimborn said. The FAA has said any action that would restrict access to the airport is not acceptable. "If an aircraft overshoots or undershoots the runway and has an accident, the stress on this airport by the public will be enormous," Trimborn said. He noted a business jet ran 800 feet past the end of the runway in June at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. "If that had happened here it would have been a catastrophic accident of epic proportions. We have a 70 foot downgrade and homes 300 feet away," he said.
AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer has talked with Trimdorn since 2002 about what can be done at the airport to improve safety.
A few hundred local residents and politicians rallied in protest at the airport in April to protest noise and air pollution from the jet traffic. Existing year 2006 aircraft operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport totaled 136,949 of which some 18,101 are jet aircraft operations and 3,642 helicopter operations. Jets account for 13.2 percent of the fleet of aircraft operating at Santa Monica.
The FAA this year is consolidating several tracons throughout the country. Have you heard? Probably not.
The FAA is proceeding quietly and not making the information widely available to the public. The agency isn't soliciting information from airspace users either.
Here's a recent example: After hearing from concerned members in Palm Springs, California, AOPA asked the FAA to have a public meeting before the Palm Springs Tracon is consolidated into the Southern California Tracon next month. More than 50 people attended the May 10 meeting.
"The point of the public meeting was to solicit input from pilots, but the FAA officials didn't give much notice - only two days - for a midday meeting," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "The FAA must do a better job of giving pilots the opportunity to hear about consolidations and provide comments."
Congress has also taken an interest in tracon consolidations and wants to make sure the FAA follows an appropriate process. The Senate Commerce Committee passed legislation on May 16 with language that would create a public process for the realignment of FAA services and facilities, including tracons.
The FAA's motive for the consolidations is cost. The agency says in some cases it can provide more services to more locations by putting all the controllers behind radar screens in the same dark building.
Tracons provide radar separation of aircraft in busy terminal areas. General aviation pilots depend on tracons for VFR and IFR services.