Friday, January 23, 2015

New chatter about Oceanside airport plan

OCEANSIDE — A draft master plan that charts the future of the Oceanside airport should leave the western tip of the airstrip open, should include grassy areas that will help soften noise and should shorten the timetable for improvements to the site, a pilots group said this week.

The plan should also include amenities that are tourist-friendly and complement the multiple recreational opportunities — from the Mission to the Harbor — available in the thriving coastal town, the pilots said.

The comments were made Thursday during a meeting between city and airport officials and the Oceanside Airport Association, a group of pilots who use the small municipal airport that in 2013 was renamed Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield.

A second meeting, to get the public’s feedback on the plan, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center Library, 350 N. Coast Highway.

The airport has been a contentious subject in the city for decades, as development has mushroomed along the State Route 76 corridor, where the airstrip sits north of the highway and west of Foussat Road.

With a runway of 2,712 feet, the airport accommodates mostly single-engine planes and is home to about 70 aircraft. Each year it handles about 11,000 takeoffs and landings — a number projected to double in the next two decades.

The meeting Thursday was led by Doug Eddow, the city’s property manager, and Jeff Lilly, representing Airport Property Ventures of Glendale — which manages Oceanside’s airport under a 50-year lease.

Pilots told the pair they were concerned the draft Airport Master Plan drags out improvements over 25 years and may underestimate future use of the airfield.

Eddow said the plan isn’t for detailed future development, but must be in place so that the city or airport manager can get Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants to make improvements.

For instance, the location and number of future hangars may be disputed, he said, but that doesn’t matter right now because the FAA doesn’t give money to build hangars — it cares about runways and taxiways and safety measures such as fencing.

Lilly said APV is ready to put in new fencing and to rehabilitate 23 hangars with new roofs and siding by June. He said the work would enhance the public’s view from Airport Road.

He also mentioned a possible grill or restaurant in the future terminal building.

Oceanside Utilities Commissioner Jimmy Knott noted right away that a restaurant or proposed museum hadn’t been spelled out in the plan.

Eddow said they were automatically included in references to a new “terminal” to replace the current administration building.

The pilots group showed little enthusiasm for Lilly’s description of plans for a portable platform to contain a temporary building for Tsunami Skydivers currently operating at the airport.

And Association President Gordon Nesbitt wondered what happened to the hope buildings at the airport would carry out a common architectural theme.

“This airport needs to be green,” Nesbitt added, saying lots of grassy areas are needed not only to beautify the place but to attenuate noise. Grass along the runways would absorb much more noise than concrete does, the pilots said.

There’s no water for grass, Lilly replied.

Knott said the airport may be able to tap into a proposed recycled-water line to the city’s El Corazon property and Goat Hill golf course.

Of the proposal to close off 300-500 feet of runway on the western end, pilots said it is not necessary for landings, but is needed to give ample room for easterly takeoffs.

Nesbitt also emphasized the importance of boosting the tourism business, citing airports in Big Bear and Catalina Island that provide a “signature experience” to visitors.

At Thursday’s meeting, members of the pilots group stood around a table while Eddow wrote notes of their proposed changes on the recommended master-plan map. The document will be sent on to consultants and a Technical Advisory Committee.

Eventually, the City Council will approve the Airport Master Plan. City Councilman Jerry Kern attended most of Thursday’s meeting.

Story and Photo:

A small plane takes off at Oceanside Municipal Airport in Oceanside's San Luis Rey Valley area in this view looking east. In the distance is traffic on nearby State Highway 76. — Charlie Neuman

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