Mendocino Airport Noise Policy To Be Reviewed

March 25, 2004

Mendocino Beacon, CA

Members of the Little River Airport Advisory Committee met last week and discussed the airport’s noise policy, tree-cutting, fencing and capital improvements.

Several airport neighbors called the airport office a couple of weeks ago to complain about noise. A pilot from out of the area was doing aerobatics, rollovers and turns, over the airport. This is prohibited in the noise abatement policy. The pilot was contacted by the airport manager and stopped immediately. Noise regulations say pilots should maintain a level of 2,000 feet from the ground. The “acrobat” was at about 1,500 feet.

LRAAC members suggested that aerobatics should be done over the ocean, not over the residential or populated areas. Some were concerned about safety, as well as noise.

Committee Chairman Tim Scully said there is often a big difference between something being unsafe, and the discomfort felt by airport neighbors.

A discussion on a process to handle safety, noise and other complaints at the airport will be agendized for the April 16 meeting.

County Transportation Department engineer Tom Peters updated the committee about grants and capital improvements.

Peters met with the FAA engineer for the Little River area and viewed the runways. They found that cracks need work, but can go for another three years without resurfacing. The FAA engineer recommended the use of pavement reinforcing fabric.

A state Caltrans inspector for the FAA also inspected the runway and found minor earthwork should be done. Peters said in the case of a pilot overshooting the runway and hitting the dirt, a plane could roll over.

Questions arose of how to balance cutting trees for safe air space with neighbor?s concerns, and how many trees be cut.

Committee members said it’s important to make the cutting plan include neighbors’ concerns about water quality and sediment, and the wind tunnel effect that can come from overcutting.

Peters said whatever is done will have an impact.

LRAAC members said they hoped trees were marked properly, as the last time cutting was done, too many trees were logged.

The FAA requires that there be no obstructions from the center of the runway to a specific number of feet outward. Peters said they will probably clearcut to the drainage ditch. He said it is a big surveying task, and cutting probably won’t begin until after June 30.

He said some of the trees that need to be cut for clear zone air space are on Nature Conservancy property to the east. Peters contacted them with this information. He was told that as soon as the property lines are marked, their representatives will take a look. He said it is possible that permission will be granted to cut the trees, but that a land exchange had not been discussed.

Fencing on the east Runway 29 is in the airport’s Capital Improvement Plan. Peters said the fencing is not to keep terrorists out, but to discourage motorcyclists and others who ride around on the airport land and sometimes go out on the runway. He said the transportation department was thinking “not chain link, but field fencing with steel posts.”

Members said they needed more cooperation from the Sheriff’s Office, that when people have been known to have been trespassing on the runways, they were cited. They were also concerned that holes will be cut in the fencing to pass through. However, someone said that once the runway is fenced if there is physical damage then trespassing will have to be taken more seriously.

It was suggested that another area be made more attractive so trespassers will go there.

Capital Improvement Plan

Members discussed the Capital Improvement Plan with Peters. Some of the money will come from FAA grants, still appropriated at $150,000 per year with matching funds.

The plan as determined in December 2002 included the 2003 development and implementation of a vegetation management plan, and land acquisition for clear zones. The land was acquired and the plan is in progress. Installation of an automated weather observation system was scheduled for this year.

Peters said he is now looking at the automated system being in place in 2005. The security fencing is also planned for 2005.

The new storage building, scheduled for 2007, was eliminated from the plan. The CIP leaves 2008 blank, to accumulate funds for the following year. Construction of new apron tie down areas scheduled for 2006 have been moved to 2011, and the new operations building to 2012.

The committee approved the restructured plan.

On March 16, the county Board of Supervisors reappointed Steve Schoolman (pilot member) and Trey Loy (non-pilot member) to the committee. Supervisors appointed Ann Kyle Brown as a new non-pilot appointment to replace Willow Trent, who had asked to be replaced.

Loy, who has been on the “new hangars” committee, brought up the subject of doors for the proposed new hangars. He said the pilots he’s talked to have told him that they prefer the hand-cranked rolling doors to the sliding ones that the county has been considering.

Newly appointed, alternate pilot member Eric Miller said it has been his experience that the county hangar doors have problems. Miller is a CDF battalion chief.

The April 16 agenda will include further discussion of the hangar doors.