Can’t we all just getalong on the airport?
For many months now, I have read and heard venom being spat at the Truckee Tahoe Airport because it is such a horrible detriment to our community and our way of life. I grow weary of the continuous stream of letters to the editor laced with sensational statements roiling the emotions of our town. I have a very good knowledge of the Truckee Tahoe Airport Master Plan and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).Our airport board had no business participating in the writing of the CLUP by the Foothill Airport Land Use Commission (FALUC). However, our board chose to actively participate in the CLUP process. It is my opinion that they attempted to facilitate the approval of the CLUP by working with the town to iron out things that could be ironed out, thereby easing the approval process.They should have allowed the CLUP approval process to go ahead without trying to appease the town and various districts that were “crippled in serving the community.” As a point of interest, none of those entities are crippled, and none will be crippled by the approval of the CLUP. Even though our board went out of its way to work with the town when there was no requirement or recommendation for them to do so, the board is accused of being insensitive to Truckee residents.
The Airport Master Plan estimates that there will be 60,000 operations per year in 2020. The CLUP takes the worst case scenario and doubles that figure. The airport critics have taken the 120,000 figure and assigned it Gospel status, clamoring that there will be planes flying over our houses every three minutes during peak periods.Our airport board worked with the town council to recommend to the FALUC that the CLUP estimate be reduced to 60,000. That reduction will make noise contour areas a bit smaller and should therefore make the compatibility zones a bit smaller, allowing more flexibility to other entities’ planning. No one, to my knowledge, has thanked our board for doing that.One airport critic, who apparently is good with statistics, has determined that Truckee Tahoe Airport is five times more dangerous than the average California airport due to its relatively high field elevation. I assume he used accepted sampling (approximately 40 of the 260 public airports in California) for his decision. However, as I started reviewing the National Transportation Safety Board accident reports for Truckee Tahoe Airport for the same period he used, I found three accidents that had absolutely nothing to do with our airport, but since ours was the closest airport to the crashes high in the mountains, ours is the airport of record. I’ve only had time to review a dozen of the accident reports so far, which is 25 percent of the accidents in the same period, and found 25 percent of them unrelated to our airport. I am not convinced that our airport it five times more dangerous than the average California airport.Some airport critics demand that the count of our operations must be totally accurate, otherwise the data is flawed and the CLUP needs to be scrapped. Some critics carp that the noise contours are flawed because the California state-accepted modeling is not applicable to our airport, and that pilots “don’t fly the correct procedures,” and the CLUP needs to be scrapped.
If the critics accept one person’s 15 percent sampling of 260 airports’ accidents, they should accept the state-approved models the FALUC used to create noise contours.The flight paths depicted on the Modeled Flight Tracks map are accurate representations of the recommended noise abatement paths, which most pilots fly. Some pilots don’t fly those paths, but we are educating as many pilots as we can.The flight paths issue is highly charged and emotional. Some folks who live at the departure end of the most-used runway feel that most pilots don’t fly the recommended departure procedures. I understand their feelings. I have observed many take-offs and believe that the vast majority of pilots fly the recommended departure procedures, but the handful who don’t certainly give the rest of us a bad rap.
The CLUP should proceed on its normal approval process, and my fellow Truckee citizens should be happy that our airport is doing its best to assure that it coexists with us in a peaceful and safe manner. To paraphrase one woman’s statement at the town council meeting, “Can’t we all just get along?” It is much easier to get along when we all keep personal emotions and sensational statements out of our speech and publications. Thank you.Tom Meadows has been a full-time resident of Glenshire for 18 years and an active flight instructor at the Truckee Tahoe Airport for 16 years. He served on the Truckee Tahoe Airport District board from 1987-93. He supports aviation in the community by giving free Young Eagle airplane rides on the second Saturday of each month.