Oceanside Airport- A mile of Runway Can Take You Anywhere

Monday, September 26, 2005
Commentary
Oceanside- valuable airport in crisis “A mile of highway can take you a mile. A mile of runway can take you anywhere”.
By Gail Chatfield
The San Diego (CA) North County Times

Seventy-plus years ago when the Oceanside Municipal Airport was constructed, its location probably seemed like the back of beyond. But that was then. Today the airport seems to be in the way of condos and Costco. It’s divided the City Council and has been bashed as a “hobbyist airport.” Ironic, since Oceanside has municipal golf courses that also cater to a “hobbyist” clientele. The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce calls the airport “truly an asset to our city” since it serves not only as flight training for future airline and military pilots but also for air medical flights and other emergency services.

While promoting construction of a convention center in Oceanside, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said that the center would be a plus for the community since Oceanside is a transportation hub of the area —- boats, buses, trains and, yes, even planes.

Regional airports can and do add revenue to a city’s coffers through hangar rents, fuel charges, restaurants and adjacent office space, if the city promotes it.

If anything, the airport should be upgraded and its operational capability expanded as a selling point to future conventioneers. Federal grant money was even made available to Oceanside for upgrades but was passed over by the City Council.

This may or may not be big-box store revenue dollars, but regional airports are one thing Costco isn’t. Airports are vital first response facilities in emergencies.

If recent hurricanes have taught us anything, it is that we are on our own. Power lines falling across the I-5 at San Onofre and a bridge collapse on the I-15 would isolate North County from rescue or evacuation.

True, the larger McClellan-Palomar Airport could handle the National Guard’s C-130s in an emergency; that is, if the runway survived an earthquake.

Remember that the airport is built on landfill, and earthquake liquefaction could render it unusable.

Oceanside’s runway cannot accommodate big aircraft, but it could handle their airdrops of supplies and be a secure staging area for helicopter and small-aircraft operations.

As evidenced with recent nationwide disasters, small airports are lifelines.

In a countywide disaster, both Tri-City and Palomar hospitals would be overwhelmed by medical emergencies and would need the airport to evacuate victims to other medical facilities.

Have experts in the community who prepare disaster plans had an opportunity to address the council as to what role the airport would play in a disaster? Will the hired consultant also study the “best use” of the airport in terms of disaster preparedness?

Oceanside is a beautiful city for residents and tourists. It can also claim the unparalleled resources of an airport, harbor, train depot, seven fire stations and a large police department to assist the residents of North County during disasters.

Closing the airport or losing the Costco revenue would both be a disservice to the community. However, there is probably other real estate in Oceanside for Costco.

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