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FAA wants action plan for safety upgrades at California's Reid-Hillview Airport

The FAA has sharpened the tone of its warnings to officials in Santa Clara County, California, to “abandon” plans to close Reid-Hillview Airport and focus on addressing a laundry list of safety deficiencies at the airport in San Jose.

Reid-Hillview of Santa Clara County Airport. Photo by Mike Fizer.

Solutions could emerge from a Runway Safety Action Team meeting the FAA held March 10 to “seek stakeholder assistance in identifying things the County, State, airport users, and FAA can do to address current risk factors,” the FAA said in a letter to Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian.

In the February 28 letter, Mark A. McClardy, director of the FAA’s Office of Airports, Western-Pacific Region, reiterated agency concerns about previously itemized safety discrepancies. He called out airport management on numerous fronts, noting that they appeared to “downplay” safety concerns raised by the FAA and state officials, and had maintained that no decision had been made about closing the airport even though they took other actions that the FAA believes “show intent” to close the airport after 2031—when obligations associated with federal airport grant funding expire.

The runway safety meeting arose from 10 runway incursions and five “surface incidents” that occurred between October 1, 2018, and January 18, 2020, some of which suggested that “the signs and markings control barriers were not successful in preventing runway incursions. It is the FAA’s opinion that any runway incursion or safety-related event linked to existing airfield infrastructure deserves careful research and scrutiny to determine if corrective actions may be applied to prevent future unsafe events.”

The FAA said it planned to follow up with airport management after the meeting to obtain a plan of action for addressing recommendations emerging from the session.

McClardy wrote that the FAA was “interested” in reviewing the county’s analysis of how almost 200,000 annual airport operations could be sent elsewhere without adverse impact if Reid-Hillview Airport were to close. The letter noted that “the community should fully understand” how closing the airport would impact operations at larger area airports and increase noise “and other potential environmental impacts to neighboring communities.”

AOPA Western Pacific Regional Manager Melissa McCaffrey participated in the meeting and noted that a productive conversation took place during which "action items were discussed in detail." AOPA continues working closely with the Community and Airport Partnership for Safe Operation and the FAA to ensure the future availability of Reid-Hillview Airport.

In October 2019, we reported on the FAA’s negative reaction to the airport management’s efforts to scale back federal grant funding and study nonaviation land uses as they revived decades-old efforts to shut down the facility. The FAA also warned at the time that if the airport were deprived of federal Airport Improvement Program funding in a closure bid, an estimated $10 million in facility-upkeep costs would become a completely local obligation over the next 10 years.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, FAA Information and Services

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