Pilots Protest Developer’s Vision for Oceano Airport

A Los Osos developer who hopes to see the Oceano County Airport closed so that it can be redeveloped met with substantial opposition at a meeting on March 17. And, while the developer attempted to keep out most of the pilots who showed up, he didn’t succeed in barring AOPA
(Editor’s Note: This developer stated in advance that he was going to limit the number of pilots attending the meetings. The important point here is for pro-aviation people to attend every meeting he has scheduled and to inform all non-aviation people attending the meetings just how important the airport is).

Developer Jeff Edwards held a “public” meeting in Grover Beach, Calif., to float the idea of closing Oceano County and leasing the property for a variety of commercial uses. San Luis Obispo County, which owns the airport, has said it has no plans to sell or lease the property.

About 75 pilots tried to attend the meeting, including some who had flown in from the San Francisco Bay area. But only a handful was allowed inside the room, which held approximately 28 people. A local man who has applied for a business permit at the airport was also kept out.

Steven Taber, an attorney from Costa Mesa, Calif., discussed legal considerations of deactivating a publicly owned airport. He said the FAA would consider requests to close an airport because the airport is not profitable. Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy, countered that the FAA rejected a request from the city of Bakersfield to close its airport because it was losing money.

“How many want to see Oceano Airport closed?” Dunn asked the group. No one raised a hand. Dunn told the developer that AOPA would strongly oppose any attempt to close the airport.

At a reception following the meeting, Dunn briefed the pilots who hadn’t been allowed inside, and emphasized the importance of remaining involved in these types of issues. “AOPA and local pilots have to work together to counter threats to general aviation airports,” he said.

Another meeting is scheduled for April 21. Dunn urged area pilots to make their voices heard at every one of the next five sessions planned by the developer. But don’t stop there, he said: “Build relationships with your elected officials in the county,” Dunn said.

Pilots’ support for Oceano Airport demonstrates the essence of engagement—speaking up about GA issues in your community. AOPA President Craig Fuller has dubbed 2010 “the year of engagement,” and challenged AOPA members to get involved. See more ideas on how to get engaged in aviation.

To read a local newspaper article on the meeting click here.