Truckee Tahoe Airport officials want more airspace information | SierraSun.com

Truckee Tahoe Airport officials want more airspace information

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Seth Lightcap/Sierra Sun file photoThe Civil Air Patrol's Cessna 182 lifts off from the Truckee Airport for a training exercise in August.

TRUCKEE ” Truckee Tahoe Airport officials are looking to spend roughly $1 million on technology that would track airplanes in the sky, in order to provide information for issues ranging from noise to local planning.

“Right now when somebody calls in to say ‘an airplane flew 100 feet over my house,’ we have to either take them at their word or discount it,” said Airport Manager Dave Gotschall. “This will give us an unbiased answer.”

However, Kevin Bumen, head of noise and business operations, said he wanted to be clear on what the tracking system ” called Multilateration Surveillance ” can and can’t do.

“It will not create the ability for us to play traffic cops in the sky ” only FAA rules apply in airspace,” Bumen said.

But even without the ability to enforce flight times, paths and procedures that make for more or less noise of Truckee-Tahoe residents, Gotschall and Bumen said they think the roughly $1 million price tag will be worth it.

“We want to know how our airspace is being used,” Gotschall said. “We need to have real data ” better than anecdotal.”

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And what that knowledge will give them, Gotschall said, is the ability to make better informed decisions about suggested flight paths to reduce noise over neighborhoods, the ability to incentivize friendly flying habits, input on planning and development ” both within the airport and in Truckee in general, and even give reason to buy more open space like Waddle Ranch.

The system uses small sensors on cell phone towers and rooftops to triangulate an aircraft’s locations, and Bumen said they’ve tested them and found they are very accurate.

The information wouldn’t only be accessible to airport personnel either, Bumen said, with the potential for residents to log on to the airport Web site to see flight paths over their home or neighborhood.

The Truckee Tahoe Airport District has been researching flight tracking equipment for more than three years, Gotschall said, including a trial-run with a different system for a summer.

The Airport Community Advisory Team has already come out in favor of flight tracking, Gotschall said, and a pilot meeting broached the topic among local flyers.

“Their biggest fear is we would use it for punitive purposes,” Gotschall said, “But the reality is we don’t control the airspace.”

Instead, the airport could offer incentives for pilots following preferred flight paths to reduce noise ” either on hangar rates or fuel prices ” and take the discount away if a pilot doesn’t conform, he said.

Next up, the airport will go to the community for input with a Jan. 14 meeting at the Hampton in at 7 p.m., Gotschall said.

After that, if the board approves it in February, the system could be up and running by summer, he said.