Airport Inspection & Compliance

July August 2003 Cal PIlots Newsletter

Caltrans Division of Aeronautics Meeting Notes

By George Loegering

On May 1, 2003, a meeting requested by Russ Schildt, President of RAPA, which included staff, Aviation Safety Officers Gary Knudson and Gary Cathey, was held with Aeronautics Division Chief Austin Wiswell. AOPA California State Rep John Pfiefer, CPA Region VP-1 George Loegering and CPA Director Region II Colleen Turner were also in attendance. The meeting was precipitated by airport clear zone closures at Dunsmuir and Shingletown. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to avoid airport closures due to non-compliance issues. Russ presented a concept that required Caltrans input and cooperation. Austin agreed with Russ?s basic concepts that volunteer pilots should be educated regarding airport facility factors that lead to closure; Austin indicated that pilot education is within his charter. It was agreed by all that liability issues were causing the State to be less sensitive to local excuses on the inability to make corrections in a reasonable time period. Austin stressed that it was not ?management by closure? it was simply necessary to take enforcement action when local authorities proved unable to do the work required by the inspection, which are per FAA Part 77 regulations and the originally permitted airport conditions (or waivers from Part 77). The important point is that all airports were not created equal nor do they necessarily have to meet the current standards. The standards are for new airports, for heavy use airports, and for major improvements to current airports that do not meet current standards. There are many reasons that there are different requirements, but are basically due to the permitting process (1950?s?) when an operating public use airport simply registered for a permit-no requirements- no standards. However, drawings, procedures and photographs eventually documented obvious non-standard circumstances. As standards were developed certain non-compliances were grandfathered in, corrected or the airport permit withdrawn. Some of the smaller rural mountain airports do not meet current standards for minimum length, safety overruns, side obstructions, etc. Some of these criteria are deemed uncorrectable because of terrain and other physical features. The cost of insurance is a key factor that could either clean them up or shut them down. The procedure and limitations agreed to for the trial volunteer programs as follows: ? Use the airports inspected by Gary Knudsen, as a trial program; these include the airports in Tehama, Siskiyou, Modoc, Shasta, Lassen, Glenn, Colusa, Butte & Plumas counties,. ? Volunteers are observers and will not interfere with the inspection or question corrective items, ? Gary to notify Russ or George of the inspection schedule as soon as a date is established (solely based upon his independent criteria), but any changes in schedule due to weather, illness, etc are not required to be given, ? Gary is not required to give the volunteers a detail written inspection report or identify when it will be prepared and mailed; however, as an educational tool he will point out, at the time of inspection, typical problems that require correction and his expectation as to when the work should be completed to avoid restrictions or closure,. ? Pilot volunteers are encouraged learn the requirements, to do independent inspections and bring existing or potential anomalies to the attention of the airport authority throughout the year but particularly prior to a Caltrans inspection and ? A pilot volunteer acting as a private citizen can encourage the local airport authority to be at the Caltrans inspection and to encourage follow up on the corrective work in the timely manner. Everyone agreed that all airports are needed and if lost, difficult to replace. We must work together even more due to budget pressures, to keep what we have and try to make use of the AIP federal grant money now available to upgrade marginal and non-conforming airports. Those in attendance thanked Austin for his time and insight