Pilots at Santa Monica Municipal Airport and throughout California can rest easier now that Assembly Bill 700 no longer requires the collection of taxi and idle times of general aviation aircraft. Instead, a task force will be formed to come up with solutions that meet the needs of the airport and surrounding community.
"This task force idea really works," said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "We've been a part of a similar working group at Teterboro Airport just outside New York City that has been able to come up with guidelines to balance everyone's needs. This is a model that can be used at other California airports instead of creating legislation to restrict or close the facilities."
The bill was amended in the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee, thanks to help from Santa Monica Sen. Sheila Kuehl. The task force is supposed to include federal, state, and local government officials, community members, and airport users. The group will study the outcome of a current air quality study that will be completed this fall and then develop some workable solutions.
Many AOPA members had contacted their senators to oppose the collection of taxi and idle times, and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers rallied behind AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer and AOPA Manager of Regional Affairs Joey Colleran last week to educate members of the committee about Santa Monica.
The task force will look at all available studies of noise at the airport and make recommendations to the FAA. There will be representation from the aviation community on the task force. Pfeifer testified against the bill and got support from ASN volunteers including Oroville Municipal Airport volunteer M.D. Short and Rio Linda volunteer Bob Baker. It may cost as much as $100,000 to fund the task force.
The city of Delano, California, has requested that the FAA release 16 acres of airport property to be used for nonaviation-related purposes. The city wants to relocate a tractor supply business to eight acres on the west side of Delano Municipal Airport and use another eight acres for business development. AOPA has urged the FAA to deny that request.
"Once released, the parcels will be lost to future aviation demands," wrote AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn in a letter to the FAA's Western-Pacific Region Airports Division. "It would be much better to ensure those properties are available for future needs than for the city to be myopic and only see short-term gains at the expense of the airport." AOPA pointed out that vacant property to the east of the airport is currently undeveloped and would be more suitable.
"Delano Municipal Airport was conveyed to a local civil sponsor by the federal government for use as a public use airport," Dunn wrote. "Unfortunately though, since that time the sponsor has continually whittled away at airport property for non-aviation uses to the extent that only property on the west side of the airport is usable for aviation related purposes; the same property the city is asking the FAA to release to non-aviation uses."
AOPA told Sacramento County that the proposed rezoning and development of the Murieta Gardens I and II Project is an incompatible use of land adjacent to the public-use Rancho Murieta Airport. This project would allow for the construction of 208 residences less than 1,000 feet from the end of the runway.
"It is the association's experience that allowing noncompatible land uses such as residential development adjacent to vibrant airports is one of the fundamental reasons and a root cause for the ultimate demise of the airport," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn in a letter to Sacramento County Environmental Coordinator Joyce Horizumi expressing AOPA's strong opposition to this project.
"It is the association's view that actively pursuing a plan to allow 208 residences less than 1,000 feet from the end of the runway is a poor application of public policy and not in the best interest of ensuring public safety," Dunn wrote.
"While the Draft Environmental Impact Statement appears to indicate that the area encompassing the subject project is in compliance with the CalTrans Aviation Bureau Compatible Land Use Guidelines, our 68 years experience in issues such as this have shown us very clearly that future residents will complain to elected officials regarding normal airport operations," Dunn added.
Now that the decision to lower the Sunroad Enterprises building near Montgomery Field to an FAA-approved level is endorsed by Sunroad itself and Mayor Jerry Sanders, the city has investigated its handling of the matter. It found little wrong, and found a whipping boy - the entire Development Services department. The FAA has determined that the height that will remove all threats to aircraft is 160 feet, but Sunroad has said in the past it wants to "negotiate" the FAA's height with the city. It is still unclear why a developer would negotiate an FAA determination with the city, and the path to further controversy appears still to be open.
The report insists that no influence peddling, no secret handshake, and no illegal actions took place in what seemed like a case of unprecedented influence over city decisions by a developer who basically told the city prior to June 27 to keep airplanes out of his way.
But the report does beat up repeatedly on its Development Services department for failure to follow procedures, for mishandling of existing procedures, and for general miscommunication.
It also finds fault with City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who fought tooth and nail against both Sunroad and the mayor to have the building corrected, for failing to provide good and timely advice. In fact, the city attorney led the fight and held frequent press conferences. The mayor complained about the press conferences, calling them grandstanding, and was obviously well informed on Aguirre's concerns.
At one point in the report the mayor is forced to fall on a sword, but it is a small one and still ends up aimed at a subordinate.
The report states: "The mayor's statement to the news media regarding the role of Ted Sexton as an executive on loan from the Airport Authority was unintentionally inaccurate. It is found that the content of the June 7, 2007, fact sheet released to the media stating that Sexton was not brought on board to manage the Sunroad issue, was prepared in error by a staff member in the mayor's office without the review of the mayor."
Vapor plumes created by power plants can be a help to pilots by indicating which way the wind is blowing. However, these plumes also can be a hazard. AOPA is opposing the proposed location of the Russell City Energy Center about one mile from Hayward Executive Airport because plumes from the facility could create turbulence, restrict visibility, and cause icing or engine and aircraft contaminants.
In a letter to the California Energy Commission's Environmental Office, AOPA cited instances of flight "upsets" because of turbulence that pilots experienced while flying over these plumes. AOPA members flying near Blythe Airport in California, where a gas turbine generation facility is located about one mile from the airport, have reported detrimental effects on their ability to land safely there.
The FAA, in a 24-page report in January 2006, said plumes cause two basic hazards. The first is turbulence that may cause airframe damage or upset the aircraft, requiring immediate recovery efforts by the pilot. The second, as noted above, is the possibility of adverse effects of water vapor, engine and aircraft contaminants, icing, and restricted visibilities. "These hazards," the report said, "taken individually or cumulatively, could possibly result in the loss of the aircraft or fatal injury to the crew, as well as substantial damage to ground facilities."