Airport friends are the ones who really care | SierraSun.com

Airport friends are the ones who really care

Steve Macica

On Nov. 2, we go to the polls to choose new board members for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District. One slate, supported by Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport (FoTTA), includes Ken Foster, Adrian Howes and Joe Ferrerra. They want to maintain your airport as a valuable community asset. Another slate, comprising Kathleen Eagan, Mary Hetherington and Paul Vatistas wants to sharply curtail airport operations in an effort that could ultimately lead to its demise. The choice confronting voters right now is whether the airport will continue as a safe, viable community transportation facility or fall into decline and eventually succumb to the developer’s bulldozer.The Community Airport Restoration Effort (CARE), which sponsors Eagan, Hetherington and Vatistas, has stirred up opposition to the airport among residents of the Martis Valley by making exaggerated claims. For example, Paul Vatistas writes in the Sierra Sun’s July 15, 2004 issue “Get ready for more jets, more noise, more development, more pollution, and another blow to the wildlife and our environment. The current board of pilots supports the existing master plan for the airport that includes doubling the number of flights over the next ten years, a new runway, new hangars, a new terminal, and de-icing facilities.”The airport master plan does nothing to increase traffic. It merely forecasts how traffic will change as population and tourism change, and then proposes options for accommodating those changes. It doesn’t contain a marketing plan, doesn’t provide for a marketing budget, and doesn’t include any outreach efforts to promote the airport’s use among pilot groups, air taxi operators or organizations that bring visitors to the area. Airport master plans have discussed possible new runways since 1967. One is a grass runway for sailplanes, which don’t have engines and therefore make no noise. Its purpose is to avoid forcing a powered airplane to go around the pattern again while waiting for a glider to be towed off the runway. The other is for training operations and is intended to move noise to the northeast and away from the most densely populated neighborhoods that have grown up around the airport. It will not be usable by jet aircraft and would be inconvenient for other arriving and departing traffic. The airport board has also clearly explained that the existing runways are more than adequate for current traffic and could support growth in airport operations beyond the most generous forecasts. Both potential new runways are included in the master plan solely to improve safety and minimize noise. The master plan includes new hangars that will be used by local property owners to protect their airplanes much as local residents build garages to protect their automobiles and other motor vehicles from the area’s severe winters. A new “terminal building” to house airport staff and provide flight planning facilities for pilots replaces an existing building that is very old. It will not accommodate ticket counters, baggage handling facilities, jetways, security screening or any of the other amenities that would be required to initiate and support scheduled airline service. Airport board members and many airport users adamantly oppose any efforts to attract scheduled airline service.The existing board has worked very hard over the last several years to address neighborhood concerns. They have implemented at least 20 initiatives, including creation of a public forum for discussing noise complaints and extensive outreach efforts to make local and transient pilots aware of the noise abatement program. In April, the airport board granted neighbors an unprecedented voice in the airport’s development by adopting Resolution 2004-03, which gives Truckee’s town council the power to decide whether the training runway will ever be built, and if so, when. The board has displayed a willingness to listen and has acted in accordance with applicable laws. Candidates need to clearly state their positions. During the meeting sponsored by Experimental Aircraft Association on Sept. 21, the candidates endorsed by CARE explicitly rejected the idea of closing the airport. Yet in an article in the July 6 issue of Truckee Today, board candidate Eagan was paraphrased as saying that if noise and safety concerns aren’t addressed, the community might eventually decide it would be better off without the airport. FoTTA candidates Foster, Howes, and Ferrerra strongly favor maintaining Truckee Tahoe Airport as an outstanding neighborhood resource and regional transportation facility. Foster, Howes and Ferrerra bring aviation knowledge, neighborhood relations skills and business sense to the board. They are committed to prudently operating the airport for the benefit of the entire district while respecting the competing interests of local businesses, neighborhood residents and airport users. Vote for them on Nov. 2.Steve Macica is a resident of Tahoe Donner and the executive director of Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport. The group’s Web site is http://www.fotta.org.