Pilots Association Sues City of Tulare

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Pilots Association Sues City Of Tulare
Group upset over terminal near Tulare airport
By Julie Fernandez
The Visalia (CA) Times-Delta

TULARE — The California Pilots Association has filed a lawsuit charging that the city violated state law when it approved Knight Transportation’s plans to construct a large truck terminal near the Tulare airport.

The Pilots Association maintains that the truck terminal and above-ground fuel tanks pose high risks be-cause they are too close to Mefford Field. The project site is west of Highway 99 about 1,300 feet northwest of the airport. The lawsuit, filed in Tulare County Superior Court this week, asks that a judge order the city to revoke Knight’s permit and to reconsider the project. No hearing date has been set.

The Tulare Planning Commission approved Knight’s plans March 15 after discussing the Tulare Aviation Commission’s concern about the location of the 20,000-gallon fuel tanks and a 50-foot-high freeway sign. Approval was contingent upon the Federal Aviation Administration approving the sign and fuel tank, and in May the FAA notified Knight Transportation in writing that neither structure posed air-navigation hazards.

The lawsuit, which names Knight as a defendant, maintains that the company has not obtained the required approval and is unlikely to get it. City Attorney Steve Kabot disagreed, arguing that the letter the FAA sent to the Arizona-based trucking company was significant.

“That’s as much approval that one gets from the FAA,” Kabot said.

However, Doug Rice, senior vice president of the pilots association, said it appears that the FAA letter dealt only with navigable air space and not ground facilities and airport safety-zone issues.

The California Pilots Association is a nonprofit corporation that works to preserve and protect airports for the public and for users, Rice said. The group became involved in the Tulare matter after a local pilots association reported the Knight decision, he said.

Jay White, the Pilots Association attorney and president, was not available for comment.