Letter to the editor: Airport crash-landed with tracking purchase
April 28, 2009
The Truckee Tahoe Airport District voted to spend nearly $2 million on a high tech surveillance system to track pilots. Despite the valiant efforts of directors Quesnel and Korth to defeat the proposal, non-pilot directors Eagan, Hetherington and VanBerkem voted to spend $800,000 to buy the equipment and about $100,000 annually for 10 years to maintain it, not including staff time to use it.
There will probably be another $200,000 expense after the first year when a piece of FAA loaner equipment goes away. The system will not reduce noise although it may help measure results when the airport rearranges its voluntary noise abatement procedures.
Unfortunately, every time you change the NAPs, fewer pilots have patience to change. And the more procedures you have in use, the more likely is a mid-air collision. The system may show a pilot that he flew a non-compliant path but he probably knew that already and have good reason, like avoiding weather or traffic.
It may show a neighbor that a noisy plane really did not come close to clipping her chimney but she probably doesn’t want to hear that. Managing this system without further angering both pilots and neighbors will be a huge challenge. It might be an interesting exercise if the costs were 20 times lower.
But in this era of layoffs, failed businesses and paralyzed government agencies it sends the wrong message. Our agencies should seek small, effective improvements that employ locals, not large, marginal ones that support engineers in Europe and salesfolk in Virginia.