Airport candidates in their own words: Mary Hetherington
Would you support the construction of an other runway as detailed in the Airport Master Plan, and why?I don’t see the need for it, obviously not now, and they’ve put it out into the future. And construction of it would conflict with traffic on [the cross-wind runway]. So then you’re going to go into how to manage that aircraft flow. But what it comes down to is those facilities – with some experience in transportation and roads I come back to the analogy of roads. In terms of freeways, you can build a six-lane freeway and you can build a ten-lane freeway. In L.A. they still fill up and go to traffic. They still come to a point where traffic doesn’t move. My point being that facilities increase traffic. Traffic then needs additional safety measures, which then you have to improve facilities, which make it so you can have more traffic. And there is a loop that gets started. And so before I would want to see any improvements to facilities I would want to take a breath and see what the long-term implications of that are. So, at this point, I can’t see the benefit to it.Would you support the construction of a de-icing facility, and why?This is an issue of safety. Some people say, well we are bringing in jets and the question again is safety. Look at the snow. When you decide to go out on the road you are aware of the safety issues on the road. For a pilot, and it always comes back to the pilot’s decision, if the facility is not safe without a de-icing facility then should they be coming in, or should they come in and then say, ” oh well, I can’t get out. I need a de-icing facility.” It comes back to that responsibility of the decision to come in in the first place. A half-hour away is the full blown international airport set up with full firefighting, towers, de-icing facilities. And that is the appropriate place more for de-icing conditions, and it is 3,000 feet lower. So I would not support either a heated or a Glycol [de-icing facility]. To me it is just one more facility that puts us farther down a pathway.Would you support the construction of a new terminal building, and why?The terminal facility is older. And I can see for the employees. The terminal fills three needs for the employees for the incoming visitors and for the locals residents – there is a great deli out there. I could see making improvements to the existing terminal building, but I don’t see the advantage to pulling it back, which the airport layout plan shows them pulling it back. And part of the reason they want to pull it back is to bring in larger aircraft. It’s a safety issue for the runway. They want to remove the EAA [Experimental Aircraft Association building], they want to remove some of these other hangars. And that again gets you farther down a road. You make improvements for safety, you then can bring in different aircraft that then need more safety issues and you have to do more improvements, and you get into that cycle. And that’s where I want to say, “let’s take a breath.” The other thing with the terminal facility is this Master Plan says it is adequate. That’s a quote in here, “Based on available terminal space and planning standards, the current terminal space is sufficient for existing and future passenger levels.” So we don’t need it for future and existing passenger levels. It might be nice to fix it up for the employees, they are pretty crowded in there. The introduction of any scheduled airline service could necessitate the need for a larger terminal facility. And I think it was last summer or the summer before when they were going through the whole terminal designing process, and they had five or six architectural firms come in and they reimbursed them $10,000 a piece for their efforts to come up with these terminal designs. That is the number, I am not absolutely sure but I think that they spent on the order of $100, 000 or $150,000 developing these ideas for the new terminal. And I am just going to bring it up because I want to contrast it with the $50,000 a year that they spend on noise abatement that they keep throwing [out] as, “this is great. Look at how much we are spending for noise abatement…” And I am thinking, “wait a minute, we are giving them $2.5 million a year. Fifty thousand dollars is 2 percent, yet they are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a terminal building that their own Master Plan says they don’t need.” So for me it is a hierarchy, and their hierarchy is focused skyward. It is focused on improvements, the best, the neatest, the coolest. Where as we are saying we are all in this space together and we have to find this middle place.Do you believe that by improving facilities at the airport the airport will attract added usage and increase aircraft traffic?Well this goes back to the changes in the transportation system. More people are buying fractional shares, more people are doing air taxis, charter air traffic. And in general I think there is more aircraft being used. If you make a nicer facility, part of making the terminal facility was to have the a place for the private aircraft pilots to have a place to shower and sleep, that was one of the aspects that they were including in the terminal facilities, as I recall from reading in the Sierra Sun. So that would be a housing facility for jet corporate traffic. I was going with the fractional shares – that’s all tied to post 9/11. If you don’t have to go through security. You have a family of five and you are going to fly first class into Reno; it’s going to be a wash for you to fly into Truckee – to buy a trip into here on that jet. Then you have jet facilities to take care of the pilots; then it is even more of an attractant. You don’t have to worry about your pilot. Where are they going to stay, what is going to happen to them when I go to this region. So, to me I think they are tied together. I think that making improvements will in fact make the place more attractive. But broader than that I think that there are more of these alternative transportation modes of the fractional shares and the jet traffic pressures. So, it is two levels. By not doing improvements I think that we will still see increases, but if we make the improvements we’re going to see even more increases.What are the major goals an airport district resident could count on you working for if you were elected to the airport board?Community voice. I want to work in a receive mode not just a transmit mode. This current board, this idea that they have done a lot, and they have done with the ANAC [Airport Noise Advisory Committee] and with instituting some of the new measures, and there are some new measures that are coming up on the FOTTA [Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport] website which are really good measures. Which a year ago, “there is nothing we can do” was the attitude… The staff was at that meeting, not the board. This was the one last September where 40 people showed up and said, “what can you do? What can you do?” Now the board is attending the noise forums. So this is five new ideas that FOTTA is proposing. The subsidizing the different blades on some of the equipment. There are five of them on there… These are good things, but there is a lot more we can do. But you have to change the framework; it is a culture thing. The culture there, there is a cool component to having expensive aircraft coming in. It’s very neat to have the premier facility of its size in the community. But that comes at a cost and the cost is to the neighborhoods that are around the area. The residents and the visitors. And so that is what I want to do. To bring the voice in. To bring balance to it. Right now the board is five pilots. And with three of us running we will bring a balance because there will still be two pilots on the board. But to have five pilots running the board is not a balanced board.What are the specific things you would do differently than the current airport board?Well for one the attitude. Kathleen, Paul and I have a very different attitude. We are friends of the community as well as the airport. We all have a genuine commitment to the community involvement. And just having the fundamentally different viewpoint is a tremendous change in terms of cultures… Culture is underlying of how you perform your work and the goals that you are trying to achieve. And so that I think is so important because it is that idea of receive as well as transmit. It’s the adaptation; The whole area is growing, we’re all having to adapt to that. But the aircraft community needs to adapt as well. It’s not just, “the residents and the visitors have to adapt to us.” It’s a mutual… I would want to revisit the capital project budget. I would spend more on the noise issues. Again two percent of the tax money that we give them versus some of their other ways that they have spent the money. I don’t think that that is not quite right…Do you believe that the Truckee Tahoe Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan should undergo an Environmental Impact Report or include mitigation in its environmental report?The Master Plan is the point where the environmental review should have taken place. And at the point I believe the town wrote a letter and was told the time to comment was at the time of the CLUP. And now basically it is saying we are just basing the CLUP on the Master Plan. So again there is another vicious cycle where the public was not included during this process. Because in 2000, for example, it was not really an issue at least with the jets or it was just starting to become an issue. And this process went through in 1998 and 2000, and my favorite part of this environmental review process is under public services, “would the project result in substantial adverse physical impacts with fire protection, police, parks or other public facilities?” Now to me all those is less than significant, and yet there was the letter that went to the CLUP from seven agencies… saying we have a problem with this CLUP. So what happened that in 2000 they weren’t looking ahead? They’re saying it was less than insignificant, and here was are three years later at the CLUP saying, “wait a minute, we have a problem.” This is the planning. This is what the board is responsible for – looking ahead.Would you support revising the Airport Master Plan before the trigger set by the board of more than 61,600 annual operations, or jet traffic exceeding 15 percent of the total operations?I think that the Master Plan needs to be re-looked at. It says here in the very first statement, which is a great statement, “airport development programs must be considered relative to the total social, economic, political and environmental systems in which the airport exists and must not be relegated narrowly to aviation issues.” That is a wonderful statement and I agree wholeheartedly. But to me this airport plan, this Master Plan, is addressing aviation issues and has not taken into account the total social, economic, political and environmental systems in which the airport exists. So they have this great statement but then they don’t follow it. Looking at this, the environmental plan, it is a huge process. These are years to go through this. So this is something that it could be started, or in some extent it could be looked at in some framework of it. But these are both huge processes, these are year processes. So re-opening it and going through it, don’t want to start the processes and then say, “oh let’s wait until we get the process done.” I am saying we might need to look at this and simultaneously be doing other things as well…Would you support noise monitoring outside of the airport property, and why? I would support it. Again it is looking at the issues of it. I brought this up at one of the public meetings. The idea of noise, for example, we get about 400 inches of snow a year over about six months. So that is about two inches – two and a half inches of snow a day if you average it out. So do we need snow removal? That is a fair question because the way that this model does noise, it averages it out. So if we put out noise monitors and they show these two minute intervals where many people that I have spoken to have to stop their conversations when they are having a conversation sitting on their deck; when their children are woken up at night or in the morning when their families are woken up. The specific incident is a small amount of time and it can be averaged out to nothing just like our snow… And so if we put monitors out we will collect the actual number of decibels, but how we would use that, that might help to identify some of the offending aircraft. Like right now they are collecting data, but in terms of how they collect data, they collect it on the complainants. But … they don’t know 40 percent of the aircraft who are making the problem, who are creating the complaints. And they only just started collecting that data list last noise meeting. Prior to this last meeting they have never tied any of these complaints to aircraft… So in terms of collecting information out in the neighborhoods, I think that it is valuable because it helps you define the areas and define what the issues are. But we would need to look at the cost to do that because this equipment is very sensitive. And if the cost to develop that is worth it. There is a cost/benefit analysis. Is that money better spent doing something with the Master Plan, or finding if there is another appropriate noise model we could use, or if that money is better spent bringing in that legal and technical expertise, or if that money is better spent with a facilitator at neighborhood meetings. I mean the pot is only so big, it is a pretty good-sized pot, but it is only so big… The fact that people are calling in is a gauge on a noise complaint. Even though they are trying to say that it is just five phone numbers, and trying to say that it is only five people out there that are creating all the hassle, all the trouble. I see those people as the canaries in the mines because many people I know don’t bother to call. Either they are just so fed up or they just know in their bones that this board is not going to take them seriously and this board has no intention of affecting change. Or these people are feeling intimidated or they are busy…Representatives of the Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport and the other two independent candidates running have suggested that if a Community Airport Restoration Effort slate, which you are a part of, is elected the airport will close. What is your response to that?I think that it is disingenuous. From the beginning, and I was at the beginning, it has never been our mission to close the airport. Our mission is to bring light into the process. Our light is to bring in community voice. Our mission is to be inclusive of the residents and visitors. This is kind of the fear mongering that I see happening. And the idea of development – anybody who knows myself, Kathleen [Eagan] and Paul [Vatistas], what we have done in the community – it is almost laughable. I think we do need to find a middle ground. Everyone needs to adapt and we do need to find that middle place… And this other thing about fear mongering is the fire issue. This is another disingenuous [statement], it is on par with closing the airport, because one candidate keeps saying that we absolutely need this airport to fight wildland fire. In the Tahoe World there was a letter from Bob Belden … that says they looked into it in the 1960s but the planes cannot get off the ground when they are loaded. I have a letter from Joanne Robique, the district ranger, that says this airport is important for bringing in supplies… but we cannot fight the fires out of this airport, the planes are unable to take off… To have in the ads by some of our opponents these pictures of the tankers dropping retardant, I think that it questions their integrity in my mind… It’s fear mongering and it’s the same as the closure argument. Let’s stick to the issues.Considering that five households have registered 354 of the 787 latest noise and low-flight complaints, do you believe that the airport noise problem is being exaggerated?No, I don’t think that it is being exaggerated. I think this idea is kill the messenger… I’ve continued to call in even after I filed, believing that this was data. This is information that they can use to link it to the problem aircraft, because it is not the local pilots, they are mostly following the noise abatement procedures, but the transients… So that is how I view the data… I have had people say, “I am not even calling.” I’ve had people say, “Thank you so much for running. I am so upset about these things. I couldn’t do what you are doing.” I hear this every day through this campaign… To then just say, “well those people are just five cranky people.” I think it shows an attitude. It is not an attitude that is inclusive of the residents here. It is an attitude that says, “move away.” Just like it is not right to close the airport and say, “you can’t have your planes.” It is not right to tell those five people, “move away.” Are jets appropriate for this small town airport in regard to the positive economic impacts and the negative noise impacts that they bring?This is the tradeoff of benefits and impacts. And this is where I would say that a pilot experiences aircraft noise differently than the general population… They are around it all the time so to them that is just part of ambient background noise, or they are harder of hearing in general, or they think, “wow look at that cool jet … that’s a cool piece of machinery.” And it is a cool piece of machinery. So they don’t see any negative impacts, all they see is the positives. But for the general population who experiences it and who experiences it in a negative manner, they are not being taken seriously. So, are jets appropriate and do they bring in more dollars to offset those impacts? … I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 14 years. I used to take my kids out to look at the jets because we would see one or two a year. It was really cool. And it has changed. Something has changed. It is changing us to that urban environment, and my concern is the long term economic health. Should jets be coming into Truckee? Well, if in the long term it is going to change our environment to an urban environment, and we don’t provide the escape for our visitors, I think we will have hurt ourselves in the long run for our economic health. I truly believe that… And I have concerns about our long-term health if we continue with the percentage increase projected on jets. So to me it is not a yes or no question… Some jets are going to come in and some jets have always come in, but if they are starting to dominate the region, and we can’t discriminate, we can’t say you can’t come in, you can, I understand that. But I have concerns if we make it easier for more jets to come in, if we put in a de-ice facility, if we put in different flight patterns, if we put in new terminal facilities for jet pilots to stay at, those are all things that make it more conducive for more jets…
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