Monday, July 18, 2005
Over and out
New hangars and runway for law enforcement signal less turbulence between town and county
By LEROY STANDISH
The Victorville (CA) Daily Press
The law is coming to the Apple Valley Airport. The Apple Valley Airport, one of six owned and operated by the county, will soon be the new home of the High Desert aerial units of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol. The county plans to construct hangars for law enforcement and an additional 24 T-hangars for private pilots is signaling a thaw in icy relations between the town and the county over airport control. Last year the town attempted to seize control of the airport from the county, filing a plan with the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission. That plan has been put on hold.
“It is probably on hold at this time,” Mayor Scott Nassif said. “I think we took a step back and looked at some of the areas around the airport and let those get settled first.”
Nassif was referring to a Town Council action earlier this month. It approved a plan encouraging the rezoning of property surrounding the airport, which is in the town of Apple Valley, to industrial.
In a recent San Bernardino County Grand Jury report the county took issue with town plans encouraging development around the airport. “For example, the Apple Valley Town (Planning Commission) approved a heavy lift helicopter facility just a few miles off the north end of the main runway,” according to the Grand Jury’s final report. “This facility is directly in the path of the only FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved instrument approach to the airport.”
Although Heavy Lift Helicopters, 19322 Central Road, was approved by the town’s Planning Commission, Bill Ingraham, director of airports for San Bernardino County, said the facility has since decided not to fly helicopters out of Apple Valley. Currently the company flies helicopters out of SCLA, but once fire season is over that could change.
Regardless of the future decisions of Heavy Lift Helicopters the county has been working to develop the airport as a small/private aircraft facility, which is in line with the town’s goals, Nassif said.
“We were looking to annex the airport into the town of Apple Valley to do just some of the things that the county is doing,” Nassif said. “I think they (the county) are being responsive to the needs of the town and the airport.”
One of the county’s investments at the airport is a $2.8 million, 21,984 square-foot hangar with six bays – four for the CHP to house two helicopters and two planes, and two for the Sheriff’s Department to stow one helicopter and one plane. The facility will also have 8,000 square feet of office space.
When completed in the next six months it will house the local flying wings of the Sheriff’s Department and the CHP. The two agencies currently fly out of Victorville’s Southern California Logistics Airport.
“Our operations from where we are here in Victorville to Apple Valley are not going to change,” Sgt. Bruce Bonnett, aerial supervisor with the CHP, said. “The airplanes primarily are for enforcement and they also get involved in search and rescue … The helicopters get involved in searches and rescues and provide allied agency assists.”
The county will retain ownership of the facility and will recoup the $2.8 million investment after 30 years of leasing the space to the CHP and the Sheriff’s Department, Ingraham said.
“This hangar complex was designed specifically to meet the needs of both of those units, the Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol,” he said. “This is a good location, a central location.”
The move from Victorville to Apple Valley is part of an overall plan to enhance Apple Valley’s prospects as a facility for small aircraft and encourage the development of the SCLA as an airport for larger commercial aircraft, Ingraham said.
“There is a natural synergy between the two airports,” Ingraham said. “It occurs by the nature of the two airports.”
Apple Valley has two runways – 6,500 and 4,100 feet long. Victorville’s SCLA, the former George Air Force base, also has two runways, but can handle much larger aircraft – they are 9,116 and 15,050 feet long.
“By developing their facility (Victorville’s SCLA) to accommodate the larger type operator and having Apple Valley develop their facilities to serve the smaller type operator the two are not in conflict – they actually support each other quite well,” Ingraham said.
Besides the law enforcement facility the county is also building a cluster of new T-hangars, expanding on the idea of making Apple Valley Airport a center of small/private aircraft.
“We have ordered a contract to construct 12 more of these T-hangars at the airport and at the same time construct a public rest room,” Ingraham said.
The new hangars should be complete before the end of the year. Ingraham said there is a long waiting list of pilots – not just from Apple Valley, but several surrounding communities – anxious to house a plane in one of the new hangars. With such demand another dozen T-hangars are anticipated to be built by the end of 2006, he said.
“There is not a lot of supply in that area and we are hoping to meet the need at Apple Valley Airport,” Ingraham said.