My Turn: The truth about how the community values the airport
October 24, 2005
The recently-released Airport Community Survey reveals the truth about how the community values Truckee’s airport versus what the new controlling members of the airport board have portrayed. The survey findings are clearly stated in the executive report: The airport is not considered a key problem in the community and it is seen favorably by the majority of the respondents to the question. Only 3.4 percent of the survey respondents had filed a noise complaint. According to the survey report, “the only statement that garnered any type of agreement was ‘The airport should manage the growth of operations to be consistent with community needs.'” Additionally, the report states that “the statement that yielded the most disagreement was ‘The airport should shut down operations and close.'” Most respondents feel that the airport should not reduce operations. These findings are contradictory to the position that the new board members take, which seems to be that aircraft noise must be stopped at any cost. Of the minority respondents who view the airport unfavorably, noise is the leading issue. This must be dealt with in a responsible manner without breaking the bank. So far the airport returns a lot to the community in both money and services. Again from the survey, 10 percent of residential respondents and 18 percent of business respondents flew from Truckee airport in the past year. The obvious direct and indirect economic benefit is difficult to deny.The new controlling board members are taking the airport district down an expensive and risky road in their quest to stop noise at any cost. They have turned down nearly a half million dollars in retroactive Federal Aviation Administration funding and have hired Peter Kirsch, an expensive, out-of-state lawyer, to advise them on how to get away with reducing airport operations despite FAA regulations. Mr. Kirsch has been an interested party in FAA litigation to ban jet aircraft in another small airport. That airport has expended some $3.4 million in legal fees for litigation and lost millions more in revenue. According to that airport’s own budget statement, “With the uncertainty of the amount of legal expense in FY 2005, many items originally budgeted were put on hold wherever possible.”Aircraft noise is a real side-effect of operating an airport. Noise abatement procedures already in place can help to reduce the number of residents impacted by aircraft noise. However, while campaigning, the new board members either did not know or did not CARE to state that our airport cannot legally enforce any aircraft routing because it does not have a control tower and therefore does not control local airspace.It’s time for the controlling members of the board to move past what they apparently perceive as their mandate to stop noise at any cost. Elected officials should never use delaying or deceiving tactics to avoid having to defend their positions. Let’s pull together as a community in an open, honest and practical manner to find an acceptable way to mitigate noise. In the meanwhile, why not get the funding that the FAA owes us before it gets cut in the next federal budget cycle? And let’s not continue to delay building the new hangers for local community members whose aircraft are currently sitting on the ramp. Doesn’t this fall under the category of managed growth consistent with community needs?Javier Castellar is a Truckee resident.