Airport board pushes back vote on Flight Tracking System, will decide in April | SierraSun.com
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Airport board pushes back vote on Flight Tracking System, will decide in April

Luke Beasley
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE “-The Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors decided on Thursday to delay a decision on the potential acquisition of an advanced but costly Flight Tracking System. Moving back the decision did not, however, stifle the ongoing debate over a system that has become controversial and whose value has been contested.

Board members, who will vote on the proposal at their April meeting, asked the airport staff several questions about the logistics and the value of the technology, while audience members, including two local pilots, used the public comment time to voice their conerns.

The proposed Flight Tracking System, manufactured by ERA Corp., would cost the airport roughly $1 million up front and then another $100,000 annually (for the next ten years) in operational expenses, according to the airport’s General Manager Dave Gotschall.

According to the Board’s website, the proposed system “provides real-time and historical 3-d flight track data for aircraft with operating transponders. The Airport staff, Board and Advisory Team uses operational data for planning and decision-making about how we use our resources, evaluating priorities, and community information.”

That includes, Gotschall said, the potential to improve upon the airport’s noise abatement efforts, because with accurate tracking data, they could deal more objectively with noise complaints.

“What we’re working on right now is anecdotal information, so someone calls and says a plane went right over my house or took out my chimney ” which I’ve heard before, believe it or not,” Gotschall said. “But it’d be awfully nice to be able to see where aircraft actually go and what they’re actually doing. It better informs the decisions for us, and gives us a data set that we don’t have.”

Some have objected to the high cost of the system, claiming that the benefits such technology would provide do not warrant such an expense. Pilot Rick Tavan thinks there are most cost-effective measures the airport should pursue, rather than “look for a way to spend two million dollars.

“I have not seen a single thing that suggests the 100 per cent accuracy of the Flight Tracking System is worth two million dollars of the taxpayers money — it certainly is not worth it to me, and probably not to you,” Tavan said during the meeting.

Airport staff, including Gotschall, Asst. General Manager Mike Scott and Noise and Operations Manager Kevin Bumen, disagreed with such assessments in an interview after the public meeting. They pointed out that, while it’s difficult to attach a price tag to the value of the information they will gather with the tracking system, they see it as a necessary next step in the airport’s noise abatement efforts.

“I think you have to be clear with people that, by installing this system, airplanes aren’t going to become more quiet,” Bumen said. “But you also have to realize that the information we can get from a system like this can help us make decisions in operating this aiport that, at the end of the day, can make a difference.”

With still a few months left to come to their own conclusion, the Board had a mixed, and mostly undefined, view of the system on Thursday, insisting that more questions needed to be explored and answered.

Asked how he thought the Board may vote on the system, Gotschall said, “I think the jury is still out, and I really don’t think any of them have made up their minds as this point.”


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