French Valley Airport

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Commentary
Leaders need to defend airport
By Gary Weidman
The San Diego (CA) North County Times

Friday last, I cruised into Stew’s at Rancho California and Margarita for a trim and some conversation. As I entered, a pretty lady guided me to her chair and the trim and talk began. She asked what I was planning to do for the weekend. I said I intended to make a day of it at the Hemet-Ryan Air Show. I just love airplanes and, by the way, I am a pilot.

She said that she lives across the street from French Valley Airport and that when she bought her home several years ago there were only a few airplanes buzzing around the airport. Now, it has gotten very busy and there are even jets flying in an out.

I agreed the airport has gotten very busy. The runway was recently extended to the south and there are plans to install a control tower.

I noted there is a local flap about a land-use problem to the south of the runway. A developer, Silverhawk Land & Acquisitions of Costa Mesa, wants to build a retail center and other large stores on their property. Runway 18, which means the aircraft are departing due south, is the runway used 90 percent of the time, because that is where the wind comes from.

Aircraft, like any mechanical device, do have problems and pilots do practice regularly for emergencies on departure and landing. Having a buffer area at the end of the primary runway is extremely important for safe operations at any airport. Our appointed and elected officials have a responsibility to ensure that development does not encroach or compromise safety.

Any development, including homes, schools and stores built within the flight pattern of an airport will only result in unnecessary risk and long-term pressure to close the airport. The public needs to know that most airports cannot be closed because of grants that require reimbursement to the federal government should the airport ever be closed. General aviation airports are critical to the long-term fiscal health of our communities.

Our county has seen the wisdom of placing the Southwest County courthouse and detention center next to the airport. It’s not in the flight path. This makes sense. You put things that are compatible next to each other in a compatible way.

The airport doesn’t irritate the residents of the jailhouse —- not that we should be concerned if it did. The jailhouse causes the airport little concern. However, I am concerned about the many young families living next to the airport and jailhouse. It’s just not compatible.

Although I feel bad for the pretty lady cutting my hair and many others who have been and will be convinced to buy homes next to the airport and jailhouse, they need to understand that their situation is not going to get better. It’s an airport; it’s a jailhouse and they are going to get bigger, not smaller.

I encourage our elected officials, the Airport Land Use Commission and courts to hang in there and do the right thing.

Gary Weidman lives in Temecula.

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