Saturday, December 24, 2005
Night flights resume at Oceanside airport
By Lola Sherman
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune
OCEANSIDE – The runway lights are back on at Oceanside Municipal Airport after state officials allowed the resumption of night flights. Night flights were suspended in mid-November on orders of the state Department of Transportation because trees and structures were too close to the runway. Gary Cathey, a chief in Caltrans’ Division of Aeronautics, said yesterday that the trees have been removed.
“We’re back in the game now,” Alan Cruise, immediate past president of the Oceanside Airport Association, said yesterday. “I have to say that the city did this pretty fast, and Deutsch (the adjacent property owner) was helpful, too.”
Some of the trees were on Deutsch property.
Cruise said several pilots, including three people who needed to use their planes for business, had been inconvenienced by the night closure.
Caltrans originally said a concrete retaining wall, a flood-control berm and a driveway to the Deutsch manufacturing plant encroached on the airport as well.
However, Cathey said Caltrans no longer was requiring that added work, although he said he didn’t have the inspector’s letter close at hand to explain why.
City Manager Steve Jepsen said it would cost $350,000 to remove those additional items, while it cost “a few thousand” to take out the trees.
The obstacles are on a 50-foot-wide swath the city bought with an FAA grant to give the runway more clear space.
Jepsen said the city once intended to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for the money to do that extra work. However, the City Council has ordered city officials to apply for no more grants for the airport and asked for a study of alternate uses for the land.
Jepsen believes that the FAA, which wants the airport to stay open, has realized it is counterproductive to have it closed at night.
Cathey cited a part of the state Public Utilities Code that says an “airport hazard” is deemed to be “any structure, object of natural growth or use of land which obstructs the air space required for flight of aircraft in landing or taking off at an airport.”
At first, city Public Works Director Peter Weiss said, a letter from the state allowing resumption of night flights asked that the city submit a plan soon for removal of the other objects.
Weiss said he delayed reopening the airport at night knowing that, given the current council stance, the added work wouldn’t be possible.
But then, he said, state officials told him they had decided not to demand the further plan and to permit the reopening of the airport at night indefinitely.