McClellan-Palomar Airport Runway Expansion

PalomarAirport improvements could boost economy –  CARLSBAD – An expansion of the McClellan-Palomar Airport runway in Carlsbad could generate millions in economic benefits to the region, according to wide-ranging study set to be approved next week by the county board of supervisors.

The 500-page feasibility study recommends extending the 4,897-foot runway by 900 feet, which would help airplanes using the airport make longer flights and help to reduce noise problems.

The document doesn’t authorize construction of the runway expansion, but it could serve as blueprint for the airport’s future, officials said.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said the study was a “big first step” in making improvements that would make the airport safer, quieter and more economically sound.

“It’s a starting point where everybody says, it’s a good thing and we want to do it.” Hall said.

Supervisor Bill Horn and Mayor Hall have scheduled a news conference Monday morning to talk about the study, which the county board will consider at its meeting Wednesday.

Horn couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Officials say the current size of the runway is limiting the airport’s potential.

The study proposed several options for extending the runway, including 200-foot and 900-foot extensions, ranging in cost from $22.5 million to $69.7 million. The report recommends a 900-foot extension, with two taxiways, one at each end.

Increasing the size of the runway to 5,797 feet won’t increase the size of the airplanes allowed to use the airport, according to the report. But it would allow airplanes to take off with more weight, including more fuel, for longer trips. Heavier planes require longer runways to get airborne.

For example, the additional distance will allow a mid-sized business jet to reach the East Coast, Hawaii or Alaska without stopping to refuel, according to the study.

The longer runway would also make the airport more competitive in national and global markets. It would provide an additional $163.2 million in economic benefits to North County over the next 20 years, according to the study.

“It’s really a big benefit to business travel out of Palomar,” said Cliff Kaiser, a member of the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee, which reviewed the study last month.

However, some residents say they’re skeptical about the project’s potential benefits.

“There already is a noise problem in south Vista and Carlsbad and a longer runway could potentially lead to larger planes and more noise in the future,” said Carolyn Chetister, president of the South Vista Communities, a nonprofit group that represents neighborhoods and businesses in that area.

The group outlined some of its concerns in a recent letter to the supervisors.

Increasing the runway size would actually reduce some of the noise coming from the airport, according to the study.

Moving the end of the runway further east would mean that many aircraft taking off would increase altitude sooner and would be higher by the time they fly over homes west of the airport.

Lengthening the runway would present an engineering challenge because it would mean building the addition over a former municipal landfill, which could make the extension unstable. But the study proposed solving the problem by installing underground columns to support the runway extension.