Their own words: Airport candidates speak – Kathleen Eagan | SierraSun.com
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Their own words: Airport candidates speak – Kathleen Eagan

Candidates for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District recently sat down for a question and answer session with the Sierra Sun’s David Bunker. The following is the full session with candidate Kathleen Eagan, a Truckee resident.Would you support the construction of construction of a another runway as detailed in the master plan?No. Anything that would add capacity – or arguably add capacity – to the airport has got to be very carefully considered because … when you add capacity you arguably enhance the growth in air traffic. And that is a very big issue for this community and this airport that’s the number one issue. How do we manage the airport in a way that does not enhance and increase air traffic that is already going to come here by virtue of a change in the industry or the way people are flying. Really critical. I would say no. I would not support an additional runway based on what I know right now.Would you support the construction of a de-icing facility or a heated hangar and why?The question to me would be the same and I don’t know how thoroughly the airport staff has really looked into this. One of the things is what is the relative value of trying to recreate the Reno Tahoe International Airport and if in trying to recreate a well established facility we bring all the amenities in that encourage people to fly here under less than ideal conditions when they can just as easily fly into Reno. It has to be looked at really carefully. Now I am open to the topic, but I want to be sure the questions are asked and answered about whether that really enhances growth in air traffic here under less than ideal conditions. As a lay person – recognizing I don’t have info on this issue specifically – it really is a question of convenience. In other words, if it is unsafe conditions under which to fly should we be flying in the first place? Do we want an airport that just enhances people’s ability to fly, especially when there is an international airport? If it enhances or increases the growth in air traffic here, for the sake of convenience, then I’m not sure that’s a positive thing to be doing. It’s a topic I am very open to, but I haven’t heard the good discussion as to why.Would you support the construction of a new terminal building, and why?Again it goes to what is the purpose. One of the things, and I think Paul and Mary share this, is we’ve got a very inadequate facility, certainly for the purpose of the employees. It’s a cramped space, inadequate and they probably ought to be better taken care of.The other question is why are we building an additional facility and spending taxpayer money to do that? What is the purpose? What’s our objective in doing it? And depending on the answer to those questions would be whether I support it. But I support it right at this stage only for the purpose of providing better working conditions for the employees.If it serves to increase the amount of air traffic coming into Truckee by virtue of being whatever the amenities might be in that facility; if it is moved back so it creates more capacity for tie-downs or for larger aircraft to fly into Truckee – more jets to fly into Truckee – those are the kinds of things I would seriously question because they are running contrary to what this community is concerned about, which is the increase in traffic. Especially the increase in jet traffic – no question about that. You know, 50 to 60 percent of the noise complaints are related to jet traffic, according to Dave Gotschall (Truckee Tahoe Airport general manager), the last number I heard him say it was something like 15 to 16 percent of the aircraft coming in are actually jets. So you’ve got your lead indicator of the discomfort in the community over aircraft, the nature, change in type of aircraft that’s coming in. The noise complaints are telling us there is a problem here. So any decision the board makes has to be considering what the implications are for increasing air traffic, and especially jet traffic, into this community.Do you believe that by improving facilities at the airport, the airport will attract more usage and increased aircraft traffic?It depends on what it is. If it’s a new hangar for the benefit of the employees, no. If it is a new hangar that adds all kinds of amenities that brings more air traffic in here because they really think it’s cool, then that has to be seriously considered.That’s a very clear distinction. It’s not like “no, no, no, no, no,” mindlessly no. To me the issue is growth in type and volume of air traffic in this community. It’s changing the small town atmosphere. So every decision the board makes has to be run through the filter of will this – and to what degree will it – entice more air traffic into this community. And if it does then that is something that needs to be very seriously considered – if the board is to have any interest in what the community is concerned about.What are the major goals an airport district resident could count on you working for if you were elected to the board?Managing growth in air traffic; within the legal bounds managing traffic in a way that will reduce the negative effects. The other is how do we reduce the impacts, which we’d be continually looking at improvements in suggested flight patterns to reduce noise impacts or any of the impacts on the community. The other thing would be a significant change in the type and character of involving the community and solving problems or starting to resolve this conflict.There is a very big difference between sitting at a dias and saying, “come and speak to me from that podium there and I will consider your request” to actually having workshops with the community on their turf and not your turf. There is a very big difference.What specific things would you do differently that the current airport board?Work with the community to joint problem solve. I would manage growth more aggressively. I would devote more resources, more taxpayer dollars to really getting a solid handle on the noise abatement problem. Inadequate resources are being devoted to that right now and that’s in terms of staff as well as data collection.In other words, if you don’t know where you’re itinerant traffic is coming from and where it’s going to, if you don’t know your customer base and why it’s using your facility and why it flies the way it does – whether it does or doesn’t fly the noise abatement procedures; if you don’t know that you don’t have the info to tackle solving the problem, you’re just paying lip service to it.So it is critical to start to gather the type of data that lets you target persuasive procedures for, let’s say jets flying in; to encourage them to perhaps fly more friendly than they currently do. The airport just put in counters to even find out how much traffic they have. They just, at a suggestion from a member of the public, started to analyze what kinds of aircraft and type of aircraft are receiving the complaints in a systematic way. That’s the type of thing that needs to be developed much more extensively. …(The airport) is quite healthy financially. If I am elected to the board I will be pressing the airport board to spend more in the way of those taxpayer dollars to really get to the solutions. And a lot of that has to do with data collection, good data collection, in order to really target solutions.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?I have never felt that is the role of the Foothill Area Land Use Commission. That is the role and was the role of the airport board when they adopted their Master Plan – and they failed to do that. They short-circuited the intent of (the California Environmental Quality Act) by only performing a mitigated negative declaration when they adopted their master plan as opposed to a full EIR, which would have advised them and the public at the time of plan adoption of what the implications of not only what they were planning on doing in that plan, but the cumulative effects of all past plans.I think they abdicated their responsibility at that time to do the type of environmental report that would have advised them about whether that was the right plan to adopt and would have advised the community. In other words, it’s four years (later) that we’re all discovering the implications of this airport Master Plan and all the past decisions. And that is not right. It may be technically legal, although a lawsuit in Mammoth Lakes … where the FAA said, “no we really don’t have to do that” and then the judge came down and said “yes you do.” The right thing to do on a public board is to be fully transparent, fully informative of the community – I mean if you’re really going to be responsive to the community, which I feel any public board must do – then you need to be transparent, forthcoming and reveal all that information to yourselves as well as the community. And they failed to do that. So my issue has never been that the Foothill Area Land Use Commission ought to be doing a full EIR. My issue has always been that the airport should have and failed to do that at the time they adopted the Master Plan.And they have all kinds of legal and technical arguments … of why they didn’t. But it wasn’t the right thing to do. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m running for the board. I think the board needs to be more responsible for the effects of the decisions it makes, or may potentially make; the effects on this community as well as the flying community – but the community at large.Would you support noise monitoring outside of the airport property?Why not? But it wouldn’t be that alone. If the implication of that is the answer to this problem is noise monitoring outside the property – and that is the answer alone – then I’d probably say no, I wouldn’t support that. That has to be one piece of a very comprehensive approach to dealing with this problem. The issue isn’t necessarily just noise. You can have a very loud decibel level propeller airplane that for many people may not create the same aggravation as does a jet aircraft that may be a lower decibel level. And so my concern with looking at that just uni-diemensionally is the underlying premise that it is just the decibel level that is the issue. I don’t think that is the case.I think it’s more than the decibel level. I think jets equal urban environments and people have chosen to be here and choose to visit here to be away from urban environments. And that has nothing to do with decibel levels. It has everything to do with the character of the aircraft coming in and how that changes the small-town atmosphere of the community.What is the cause and effect relationship of town planning and the airport. Truckee has small-town atmosphere, but it has a Jack Nicklaus golf course, Coyote Moon, it has Lahontan. Pretty soon it may have Siller Ranch… Is the responsibility for the noise shared by the town as well as the airport?The underlying assumption of the cause and effect, I do not buy the argument that 100 percent of the change in the type and nature and volume of aircraft is related to the fact we’ve got development occurring here in Truckee…. The airport says “It’s not my fault.” You, Placer County, you’re building all these communities and it’s causing an increase in the amount of air traffic. Well, that’s certainly some part of it. But the other part, which nobody has quantified yet, is growth in homes, lets say ultra-high end, most of which are occurring in Placer County by the way. But there are other things that nobody is talking about. And that is the change in the industry. You have a change in the industry that has nothing to do with what’s going on in Truckee in terms of homes. The flying industry is changing. We have scheduled aircraft – Southwest Airlines, American, scheduled service goes into Reno. That is likely to never come into Truckee, that type of commercial service. But what we have a growth in, and it’s exacerbated by the increase in security and you have the airlines holding on to their hub and spoke thing, so you have old scheduled airline practices. So all of a sudden you have people saying “Oh, shoot, this is the pits, are there any alternatives out there?” This is the American way.What alternatives are there? The notion of fractional shares, which means all of a sudden this notion of, gee, if I just share ownership, 20 people per plane and I buy so many hours of flight on this, I can actually reduce my costs and it’s really convenient. I can go from San Francisco to Truckee straight and I don’t have to deal with Reno. So fractional shares is a way of responding to this problem people are having with scheduled airlines……It has nothing to do with growth in Truckee. It has everything to do with the change in the nature of scheduled airline service taking too long. It’s a convenience issue.The third thing that is happening is this notion of air taxis, which are filling a vacuum. People are dissatisfied and don’t want to pay for the fractional share but they can’t stand the waiting in line. So all of a sudden we have this notion of air taxis coming in, which is a form of commercial service – it’s not scheduled airlines, Southwest Airlines, which we all think of… But we’re in a situation in the transportation industry where it’s going to be feasible for four or five people to just kind of come together in a small jet and fly wherever they want almost as cheaply as they can on a scheduled airline service.All of these factors have nothing to do with growth in the Martis Valley, yet have everything to do with the increase in air traffic. It’s not a fully reasoned discussion for the airport board to say “it’s not our fault, it’s just all the development that is occurring around us.”Would these factors outweigh the Village at Squaw Valley, Northstar Village? It would be great to know if they collected more data. Right now everybody is from the hip saying it’s all somebody else’s fault; Placer County and the Town of Truckee. These people know all about – they know better than I do – these other pressures that are occurring here and they’re not talking about that. They should be to be really honest.The other thing is when you get to get to understanding who your customer is you can start answering that question and be forthright with the public and community about the answer to that question. I haven’t been able to do that analysis, so I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know enough to even raise it, which is not being raised by anybody. They’re just kind of deferring off that we don’t have a roll here – yeah you do. And part of that is being honest and forthright about what is really happening in the industry.The other thing is it is not static. It would be great to know, given the air traffic that came in here five years ago, how much of it was a function of Incline Village. It had nothing to do with development here – Town of Truckee, Placer County or anything else but coming to Incline, how much it was a function of Lake Tahoe and how much was a function of Martis Valley growth.Now that is just a question of analyzing your customers coming in. The airport could do that if they want. Let’s figure out what it is rather than just flopping around out here making things up. Figure out what it is – what it was then and what it is now. And was this just all the mix of the fleet. Was it all single ownership and then how much now is air taxi, how much now is fractional share, how much is single ownership, how long have they had these aircraft? That would be another great question to ask.If 90 percent just purchased in the last year, these people have been wealthy for a long time and they built their homes long before.The questions I’m asking in order to get to the answer, rather than just kind of making it up, which is really pretty much what we all do right now and we’ve got to stop doing that. I say the number one issue facing this airport is to figure out how to resolve this growing conflict. And part of that is figuring out how to resolve this trend. Is it 50-50 due to Lahontan and Gray’s Crossing, which I doubt. Everybody is saying it’s Lahontan, but we’ve had a 33 or 20 percent increase, depending on the numbers you look at, in jet aircraft year to year, but a 50 percent increase in jet aircraft. How do you get a 50 percent increase if you’ve got 60 aircraft or 60 operations. Is it all related to Lahontan? They don’t know because they don’t track that data. What if it is all related to Incline Village and has nothing to do with Lahontan?…Look at how the town worked at managing those developments (Gray’s Crossing, Old Greenwood). You just can’t say no. East West Partners was almost on the brink of saying “I’m leaving town,” versus looking how Placer County manages it – and does not manage it, in my view. There is no managed growth over there. It’s pretty much anything goes. No managing for the impacts, no managing for affordable housing, no managing for any of the kinds of impacts that are going to occur as a result of that kind of housing.If the CARE candidates are elected, will the airport be closed and then opened for development?Absolutely false. What CARE has consistently said and what the candidates have consistently said is they are for the long-term viability of the Truckee Tahoe Airport and that we are for a healthy airport. To spread that baseless assertion is irresponsible… There is no integrity in any of that. And the developing Martis Valley is absurd.We’ve got one group over here who says our real motive is to develop Martis Valley with the implication – and this was on the Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport website – the implication that we owned property and stood to gain financially. They didn’t say that, that was the implication.Then we have another group over here saying they are really trying to close down development. OK you guys, get together and figure it out. What are our motives really? It’s a groundless fear campaign that I think reflects on the integrity of the people who are putting forth the rumors. Will the Truckee Tahoe Airport lose revenue if jets are told to land in Reno?This is a very wealthy airport. I would be very concerned about any business enterprise or government enterprise that pursued the dollar at the expense of everything else in the community. That’s exactly the kind of isolationist thinking that works to the detriment of the airport as far as how it’s received in the community. What the person is saying is we have to attract jets in order to keep the prices low at the airport. First of all I think that is wrong. And the second thing is that if it were right, that’s not a reason to attract jets, to keep the prices low at the airport, because what it does is gives no consideration whatsoever to the rest of the community as far as the impacts of that jet traffic.The airport is wealthy enough. They have lots of options. Considering five households have registered 354 of the 787 noise complaints and low flight complaints, do you believe the airport noise problem is being exaggerated?No I don’t, and there are a couple of reasons for that. When I started getting involved in this back in 2000, I would make calls so the airport knew something was happening in my neighborhood. Frequently many times they would have information that was wrong. They’d say that couldn’t possibly be happening because that isn’t the flight path.The value in getting calls from the public is you start to collect data, you start to understand where the rub points are. You want to know where the problems are in the community if your are ever going to be able to solve the problems. There are lots and lots of people who talk to me and they never call. Anybody who screws up the courage to make a call there are many many other people behind that individual. This is the place where I think the airport board has been pretty schizophrenic. They started in 2000 with the airport noise advisory committee, saying we do want to hear about the complaints because we do want to know where the problems are. So you get people like me who call a lot to let them know that was a loud one….If you are really concerned about solving the problem in the community and collecting data, you want to know which aircraft it is that’s not flying noise abatement procedures so you have an opportunity at pilot education and persuasion.The airport can really hide behind that (complaint) number and if they choose and say its a very few people they are wrong. Because there are people who are really ticked off and will never call.Rather than encouraging people to give them the data that helps them to solve the problem they discourage people by discrediting them. Somehow the airport needs to get its thought process straight on that and not vilify people who are calling.The implication is that this is not really a problem, it’s only a few people who are doing it. Are jets appropriate for this small-town airport in regard to the positive economic impacts and the negative noise impacts that they bring?I don’t know what the positive economic impacts are. Who has defined that? We are defining the noise impacts, 50 to 63 percent are on jets. I know some people believe that the jets coming in are bringing in high-end homes and that has a beneficial impact as far as a segment of our community. But as far as identifying what that is, nobody has done that.The underlying presumption is the only reason those people are buying in these areas is because they can bring their jet right here. Paul Vatistas has expressed his underlying assumption that if the runway wasn’t long enough and jet aircraft couldn’t come into Truckee, they would go to Reno and still have a place up here.To say (homes) were only being built because of the Truckee Tahoe Airport is not a very solid economic analysis. Jets are the biggest rub in this community. Does that mean no jets? Of course not. Does that mean we’ll do all we can to accommodate the full range of business and air taxis aircraft? I’d say of course not on that too. That’s what managing growth is about. It’s not all or nothing at all. But there definitely needs to be a better balance between meeting any and all demand in aircraft, which is what the Master Plan says.Would you support revising the Airport Master Plan before the trigger set up by the airport board, which is when aircraft operations surpass 61,600 annual operations, or if jet traffic exceeds 15 percent of total operations?I think there is a pretty large impetus to do it right now. The reason for that is the airport has bee executing the Master Plan as far as capital improvements. And each one of those ought to be run through that filter of does this enhance growth in air traffic? It’s not like they have been stationary since the Master Plan was developed. They have been implementing the Master Plan.For example, they have gotten approved six or seven executive hangars. And I would argue that there has been inadequate analysis to understand whether that will decrease jet operations or increase the capacity. Intuitively, I have to say it would increase the capacity, but there has been inadequate analysis of that question. The airport should not be doing things to increase the capacity of the airport to handle jet traffic as opposed to Reno. I do not believe that there is higher margins on jet fuel should in any way drive the decision making on how the airport conducts itself going forward. It is a very unwise approach.


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