McClellan-Palomar Airport- New Construction Starts

CARLSBAD ?? County airport administrators and a group of pilots set aside their  lengthy, bitter dispute over the demolition of several airplane hangars and  celebrated the start of construction Friday on a new small-plane parking area. During a ground-breaking ceremony for the $6.7 million project at  McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, an unlikely pairing of people shared  space at the speakers? podium. 

Peter Drinkwater, the county?s airports manager, declared that the county and the pilots were ?beyond our differences.? To prove it, he announced he?d decided to hand over the microphone to attorney Ron Cozad, who represented a group of pilots in their Federal Aviation Administration complaint against the airport in 2004. Cozad thanked Drinkwater ?for having enough faith to move the microphone over? and said the plane parking area was one great result of all the bitterness of the last two years. The troubles began when a company now called Premier Jet embarked upon a $30 million renovation project on 15 acres it leases at the airport from the county. The company proposed to build 160,000 square feet of high-tech aircraft hangar space ?? five large hangars and nine small ones ?? as well as 60,000 square feet of glass-fronted offices and a conference center. In order to achieve the upgrade, dozens of small planes were evicted from the aging hangars they?d occupied for years. Some found other spaces at the airport, others were forced to leave. As the eviction process proceeded, three parties ?? the Pacific Coast Flyers club, retired pilot Roger Baker and Carlsbad Aircraft Pilot Supplies shop owner Donnya Daubney ?? filed the FAA complaint, charging that the airport construction project was conceived ?secretly? and benefited jets over small-plane operators. The FAA found in favor of the county earlier this year. Before that action occurred, Cozad sent a letter to the agency supporting the idea of a new tie-down area for small planes on the northeast end of the airport. During Friday morning?s ceremony, Cozad said that a few weeks after writing the FAA, he received a surprise call from Drinkwater who advised that the agency acted on the request and approved more than 130 tie-downs on one of the last undeveloped portions of the field. Cozad gave credit to the County for following through with the FAA, finalizing the plans and for making the new ramp a reality. ?When this is completed in April, this airstrip, in my view, will be responsive to all communities at the airport,? he said. Then, Cozad and Drinkwater shook hands as the cameras flashed and an audience of some 30 people watched. The crowd included Daubney, the evicted pilot supply shop owner. Daubney relocated her store to the far western end of the airport after she received her eviction notice. She?s doing well, she said, and she hopes to gain the management contract for the new tie-down area. ?It would be terrific,? she said. At her old location, she managed 38 plane tie-down spots. In addition to 130 new small plane parking spots, the county will gain a stormwater detention basin as part of the new construction effort, Drinkwater said. The basin will hold and treat run-off water before it enters Agua Hedionda Creek. It?s the first in a series of construction projects awaiting takeoff at the airport. Plans for a new airport terminal are expected to move forward early next year. ?We?re on a roll, and this is the first step,? Drinkwater said. By: BARBARA HENRY - Staff Writer NC Times San Diego
 Donna Daubney
Ron Cozad, Rick Baker,
and Rick Beach

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