Opponents blast SMX taxiway plan

SMXlogoAIRPORT BOARD OPTS TO STOP EVICTION OF ARTCRAFT PAINT – A group of local pilots and air traffic controllers landed hard Thursday night on the Santa Maria Public Airport District’s plans to redesignate taxiways at the airport.

The group voiced its concerns to the Board of Directors as the airport general manager updated them on the runway extension project, which includes a plan to rename all of the airport’s taxiways.

The board also discussed the future of ArtCraft Paint Inc. in closed session, and reported it is not going to move forward with eviction proceedings against the business and will allow it to continue with a month-to-month lease. (Editor’s Note – read article)

The district has been trying to evict ArtCraft Paint since serving the business with a 30-day lease termination notice in September 2012. The district took the action because of repeated late rent payments over much of the business’s 28-year history at the airport.

Those eviction proceedings were stopped prior to the Jan. 10 meeting.

With regard to the taxiways, part of the district’s runway extension project, which increased the length of the main runway to more than 8,000 feet, was the addition of a new taxiway. Giving that new taxiway a name and renaming the others is all part of the Federal Aviation Administration-funded project that dates back to 2010, according to airport General Manager Chris Hastert.

He said the plan developed over the past two years follows FAA Advisory Circular 150/5340-18F guidelines which state taxiways should use two-character alphanumeric names such as A1, A2 and so on. The document has extensive instructions on runway and taxiway designations and signs.

Hastert said the district has been preparing to implement the plan and informing both local and visiting pilots of the upcoming changes for nearly a year.

“We’re talking about a major project that was thoroughly studied and well designed,” Hastert said.

He added the plan includes designations for future hangars and taxiways. He also said the new designations are the same kind being used at other airports, a point Director Chuck Adams, who flies regularly into Southern California airports, confirmed.

“This mirrors a lot of what I seek every week,” Adams said, specifically mentioning L.A./Ontario Airport.

But a number of pilots and air traffic controllers don’t agree with the designation plan the district developed and they think the board should stop its implementation before it takes off.

While Hastert said the FAA advisory circular sets standards for project construction, which include taxiway designations and signs, James Jones, a Santa Maria air traffic controller, said those are more guidelines than rigid standards.

Jones repeatedly called the district’s plan “stupid” and “confusing,” and said if it’s implemented it could lead to “runway incursions,” which means accidents. He said he put forth a plan that wasn’t fully considered by the district.

“You got to take the input from the people in the tower. You guys don’t have to deal with this. We do,” said Jones, who said he has 35 years experience in air traffic control.

Jones said if the district goes forward with its plan, it will jeopardize a nearly five-year stretch without a runway accident.

Mitch Latting, vice president of the California Pilots Association, also questioned the FAA’s authority in designating taxiways at local airports.

“The FAA has signed off on this plan, but the FAA is not perfect. We know this as pilots,” Latting said.

He suggested the district submit a new plan to the FAA.

The board did not take action on the item.

 Watch the video.………