Pilots who use Gnoss Field spoke out against a Federal Aviation Administration recommendation to extend the county airport’s runway 800 feet less than originally proposed.
At a public meeting Thursday regarding the FAA’s determination that only a 300-foot extension is needed at the Novato airport, pilots and others argued for a longer runway extension for safety reasons.
Some pilots said the report is riddled with errors.
“We’ll certainly look at comments that suggest there’s factual error, look into that and see if we agree,” said Doug Pomeroy, an FAA environmental specialist.
A 1,100-foot extension was originally suggested for the 3,300-foot runway at the 120-acre airport. But the FAA changed its recommendation after a study that reviewed aviation activity and what was needed for the most demanding aircraft taking off and landing at the airport.
Several pilots at Thursday’s meeting said the $84,613 study, conducted by global aviation consulting firm Landrum and Brown, was inaccurate in classifying Class B-II Turboprop aircraft as the most demanding aircraft that require the largest operating space, logging 500 annual takeoffs and landings at Gnoss Field.
“They aren’t fixing the runway and making it the proper length of the critical aircraft, which is the Cessna 525,” said Peter Gruhl, a Novato resident who has been using Gnoss since 2009.
The Cessna 525 Citation jet in 2009 was determined the aircraft with at least 500 takeoffs and landings at the airport. The original 1,100-foot runway extension was based on regular airport use by the business jet.
Pilots said the most demanding aircraft should still be the Cessna 525 Citation jet, and not the Class B-II Turboprop aircraft, which refers to aircraft that approach at 91 to 121 knots, have a tail height of 20 to 30 feet and a wingspan of 49 to 79 feet.
Charles Roell, a San Rafael resident and retired military aviator, also believes the Cessna 525 Citation jet is still the airport’s most demanding aircraft.
Both Roell and Gruhl said the study’s count of the aircraft operating at Gnoss is inaccurate.
Both men said not all aircraft operating at the airport are counted in FAA databases because they do not file flight plans, which indicate an aircraft’s proposed route and are used to govern flights.
“That happens a lot more times than the folks doing the counting think it has,” Roell said.
Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, said flight plans are required to be filed for commercial flights but are optional with private flights.
Because Gnoss Field does not have a traffic control tower, there is no exact count of how many aircraft use the airport, Kenitzer said.
“Therefore, other local, regional, and national factors such as number of aircraft based at Gnoss Field Airport, national and local economic trends, local population trends, and trends in general aviation activity ... are all used to estimate the total number of aircraft operations at Gnoss Field Airport,” he said in an emailed statement.
Novato resident David McConnell said his request that the runway be extended 1,100 feet is based on safety. He said crosswinds that come through Mount Burdell are often burdensome for Gnoss pilots.
“To extend the runway 1,100 feet, as you go north, the crosswinds would be less and less,” McConnell said.
Comments on the study will be accepted through June 17. The FAA will then complete its supplemental environmental impact statement.
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