Each year, the California Pilots Association names its ?Airport Advocates of the Year.? The award recognizes three individuals for their exceptional hard work and dedication to airport access and preservation. Two of them, Carlsbad Attorney/ Pilot Ronald Cozad and Cal Pilots Associate Volunteer, Rick Baker, took on the fight for the rights of ?small aircraft? owners at McClellan-Palomar Airport while the third has initiated an active public relations program for the Santa Ynez Airport
Carlsbad?s McClellan-Palomar Airport is owned by the county of San Diego. Last year, Cozad and Baker were tipped off that one of the airport?s master lessors were preparing ?confidential? plans to evict nearly 150 light general aviation aircraft from the airport and turn 13 acres of the heart of the airport into a jet center. Neither the County nor the master lessor acknowledged their plans. But after months of investigation and several formal requests for records under the California Public Records Act, the two determined the County and master lessor, were in fact, working together to remove more than half the light general aviation from the airport, contrary to the airport?s own publicly approved Master Plan.
Baker explains, ?Because Palomar pilots historically feared retribution if they bucked the system, they never organized, and never developed any real representation in the airport decision-making process. As pilots, we are trained to trust the system and do what we are told. But what if that system is broken? We live in a democracy, right? Should we ?walk away??and let problems get worse for others? Should we complain as an individual?ineffective if the system?s out of control. Or should we work together as a community to help fix it for all?? Thus, Cozad and Baker began organizing the reluctant pilots and informing them of the plans. Baker formed the Palomar Airport Association, a California Pilots Association Sub-chapter, and enlisted the aid of sister organizations at Oceanside and Gillespie airports. The two also helped organize the San Diego Area Aviation Council, an informational and resource-sharing association composed of representatives of each San Diego area airport.
As the Palomar pilots became organized and more assertive, Cozad, Baker and others, were able to obtain several important concessions. They include the addition of 28 tie-downs on that leasehold, the planned construction of up to 160 tie-downs on the North side of the airport and several more tie-downs on the West side of the airport. Unfortunately, despite these concessions, the County announced the North-side ramp would not be built for 2 years. The County ordered evictions and demolition that began in September of this year. Not to be deterred, on behalf of his private clients, flying club Pacific Coast Flyers, pilot shop owner Donnya Daubney and pilot Roger Baker, Cozad filed a formal ?Part 16? complaint before the FAA.
According to Cozad, ?The complaint is based on violations of Federal Grant Assurances 5, 22 and 23, which prohibit the airport sponsor from engaging in unjust economic discrimination, anti-competitive dealings and dereliction of its FAA-imposed duties. Put simply, we believe the County has engaged in improper leasing practices and has mismanaged the airport.? If a suitable arrangement cannot be worked out and if the FAA sustains the complaint, the County could potentially lose all federal funding for their airports program. Cal Pilots, AOPA and California State Senator Bill Morrow all submitted letters of support for the complaint.
Cozad advises the FAA is currently investigating and is expected to issue its initial determination next spring. In the meantime, the County has made further concessions but the airport center has been demolished and it remains to be seen what the final development will be. According to honoree Rick Baker, ?Like all public property, publicly established airport plans are not changed behind closed doors and valuable airport rights are not given away ? even by government agencies. You have to work for those rights.? Light general aviation interests at Palomar remain under attack. But, they?re up for the fight. To read more about the FAA Complaint see http://www.pacificcoastflyers.org.
Meanwhile, over at Santa Ynez Airport, ??a different scenario unfolds. Kim Joos, Assistant Airport Manager, has been working with the city of Santa Ynez to improve the airport and has made enormous progress. Santa Ynez airport is slowly being transformed with various upgrades to the infrastructure, such as parking, and ramp space. Just as important is the non-profit airport?s plan to attract and fully fund the flight training of deserving local high school students. To date, three youths have become Private Pilots thanks to the airport?s plan and Kim Joss? hard work. Last May, the California Pilots Association was privileged to attend the ceremony which honored the three high school students (see www.calpilots.org website for more details).
Kim Joos continues to work towards making the Santa Ynez Airport better, and after witnessing her achievements, we are convinced she will continue to be successful.
Congratulations to all.