Airport approves purchase of flight tracking system | SierraSun.com

Airport approves purchase of flight tracking system

Luke Beasley
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE “-In a 3-2 vote Thursday, the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board of Directors approved the purchase of a $800,000 flight tracking system, which has the ability to track flight paths on all incoming and outgoing planes. Proponents of the system claim its capabilities will allow the airport to decrease airport noise.

Board member Tom Van Berkem, who has been the system’s staunchest advocate on the five-member board, said the decision was a critical one for the “long-term sustainability of the airport.”

“I’m very pleased our work has come to fruition,” he said.

The up-front acquisition cost of $800,000, in addition to the estimated annual operating costs of $100,000, had led some local pilots, community members and board members to question whether the services are worth the price tag.

Local pilots Russ Grossman and Rick Tavan opposed the acquisition of the system, on the grounds that it was too costly for the services it may potentially provide.

“I believe the benefits of the system to the community are marginal,” Tavan said. “Yes, we might get some information that could help with noise abatement, but really, there is no direct benefit to noise abatement. If it cost $100,000, I’d say get it, but for 2 million over its lifetime, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to being worth the money.”

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Grossman said that because of the topography it can be very difficult for a pilot to stay within a specific corridor of space while flying.

“… by adding data, that doesn’t mandate compliance,” Grossman said. “There are no lines in the sky, and every plane and flight goes in a different place. So, for me to get a phone call form the airport saying we tracked you outside a path, I don’t think that would be the right way to go about it.”

Andrew Terry, a member of the Airport Community Advisory Team, said that in talking with another airport who had installed a similar flight tracking system, the data it provided was useful and integral to their noise abatement efforts.

Board president Bill Quesnel, who along with Sandy Korth voted in opposition, is worried the system will create unreasonable expectations in the community.

“I believe that the benefits people expect to come from this aren’t going to materialize,” Quesnel said. “I actually really believe that it’s going to create a lot more work for the staff because once the public knows what the system can do, they’re going to be getting more input and calls from the public. It will help provide important information about where airplanes are flying, but if someone on the ground is annoyed by where that plane is flying, it’s not going to move the plane. We have no authority to do that.”

But Dave Gotschall, the airport’s general manager, said that acquiring the system was the “necessary next step” in the airport’s mission to reduce overall annoyance and noise.

“It was the right thing to do for the long-term viability of the airport,” he said.

The installation of the system is about a six-month process, board members said. Van Berkem said he hoped it would be operational by Thanksgiving, or at the latest, Christmas.