March ARB Wants Some Company

The commander of March Air Reserve Base between Riverside and Moreno Valley was clear: The Air Force doesn’t mind sharing its runway with general aviation flights.

Col. Karl McGregor said the military actually wants the civilian air traffic because it could help defray the costs of operating the airport. He spoke Thursday night at a community meeting organized by Riverside Councilman Paul Davis who represents the Orangecrest neighborhood.

The mood at the meeting was decidedly different from two prior meetings held at the Orange Terrace Community Center that attracted crowds of 40 or 50 neighborhood residents. At those meetings, residents who still had far-from-fond memories of noisy late-night DHL cargo flights that buzzed overhead posed heated questions to the March Joint Powers Authority which has been overseeing redevelopment of former Air Force Base property.

Mistrusting the agency’s efforts to develop a general aviation terminal at the base, especially since the authority can’t legally limit the time of day that flights land or depart at the airport, residents had said they feared a host of issues that would come with opening the base to more private flying. Among them were: aircraft noise, accidents and the potential for terrorist acts since the base is shared with the military.

The evening meeting was sparsely attended, with less than 20 residents in the crowd, not counting McGregor, JPA executive director Lori Stone, airport director Gary Gosliga and authority board member Andy Melendrez.

McGregor said his 452nd Air Mobility Wing would be able to handle the mix of private flights and military flights and maintain a high level of security at the airport.

If a lost pilot started heading to the wrong part of the runway ramp, for example, “they would never get past the taxiway,” McGregor said.

What’s more important than the size of aircraft coming into March is the flow of arrivals.

The military operates the air traffic control tower at the base from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and usually closes it on holidays.

If a private pilot wanted to land at the airport between 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m., though, he or she could because, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airport has to stay open to flights 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As it is now, any private pilot wishing to land at March has to first get permission from the JPA and Air Force after providing proof of a license and insurance. Gosliga said only seven permits had been issued to land so far this year.

The authority has said it doesn’t expect to have many general aviation flights, an expectation McGregor echoed at the meeting. The JPA first voted to allow general aviation in mid-2008. In February, the authority saw designs for a proposed $1.6 million terminal funded primarily by the FAA.

Reach Kimberly Pierceall at 951-368-9552 or kpierceall@PE.com

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