San Luis Obispo Airport

This is a response to the comments made by Mr. Kent Macdonald, unhappy airport neighbor. Mr. McDonald, perhaps it would help if you had a better understanding of the operations around a busy regional airport such as San Luis Obispo’s. First, be advised that there is something called an airport traffic pattern where aircraft operate in a standardized manner to insure safety. Aircraft approaching and departing airports follow these standardized procedures as defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and in the case of San Luis Obispo’s Airport, its control tower. Airport traffic pattern altitudes are typically determined by aircraft type, and great care is taken to insure safety is the priority. Of course a landing aircraft will need to descend to land. It is unlikely that the control tower at San Luis Obispo’s airport has made changes in these defined flight paths.


Flight training is part of an airport’s function, and can be found at almost all airports. Be it helicopters, or fixed wing aircraft, they have the same rights to make these flights as you do to drive on the road. Pilot license training requires night flight; there is no way around it. A pilot must be prepared to land after dark. “Revving engines” as you put it can be explained by something called a run-up. Every pilot does a thorough preflight check of his or her aircraft prior to flight. The engine is run to a specified RPM and checked as part of this ground check. Your unsubstantiated opinion that ?equipment is clearly antiquated and perhaps poorly maintained?? does a disservice to all pilots, Fixed Base Operators (FBO’s) and the mechanics which maintain aircraft. If motor vehicles were checked 25% as much as aircraft are, as defined by FAA regulations, the roads would be a much safer place.

All communities are struggling to find the balance between appropriate development and noise and safety around airports. Developers push to develop close to airports because there is open space. The reason there is open space around an airport is due to airport safety issues. Typically, after housing is approved and the developer has made his money and moved on, the community is left to deal with the costly issues of noise and safety (which did not have to occur). I suggest you check San Luis Obispo’s excellent airport web site. On it you will find noise abatement instructions for pilots unfamiliar with the area. You should also know that all pilots do their best to keep noise to a minimum, and to fly friendly regardless of what you perceive. The San Luis Obispo Airport is a good neighbor, not to mention an economic engine for the community, and critical piece of California’s transportation infrastructure. I am not a resident of the area, but I have landed at San Luis Obispo’s airport and always found everything about it professional and impressive.

Regarding your statement, “The editorial makes it sound as if the complaints come from a few isolated cranks”. I think it speaks for itself.

Ed Rosiak
President, California Pilots Association

Editor’s Note: Negative letters such the one below should always be answered unemotionally and to the point, so the community has a chance to understand both sides.

Mr. MacDonald’s Letter


Far from folly — Move the airport
By Kent Macdonald
The San Luis Obispo (CA) TribuneOpinion


I am one of the poor schmoes who live near the airport and made the mistake– well, that’s The Tribune’s view anyway — of having complained a few times about airport operations. I must take issue with the substance and tone of the paper’s Jan. 25 editorial.

Is it really folly to be concerned about repeated and incessant overflights by buzzing helicopters into residential areas, especially when such overflights are prohibited by the airport’s own regulations? Is it folly to complain when the airport changes the routes for these overflights without notice to residents? Can’t we question whether we really need an “international” helicopter training school in the middle of town?

Is it really folly to be concerned about student pilots, some flying solo, circling repeatedly over residential neighborhoods making their touch-and-goes? Is it folly to be concerned about the potential for disaster? A few months ago, an apparently inexperienced pilot attempting to take off at night, in foggy conditions and without radar instruments, crashed with tragic results into Islay Hill, near a neighborhood filled with families with children. How many more pilots like that one are out there? Can’t we question whether the airport is sufficiently staffed and equipped to deal with the specific conditions of our local terrain and weather — and the varying qualifications and professionalism of the flying community?

Is it really folly to think that pilots taking off at 2 a.m. and revving engines for long periods are an intrusion into our right to reasonable peace and quiet? Is it folly to be concerned that some of the equipment is clearly antiquated and perhaps poorly maintained? Can’t we politely suggest that an airport impacting half the residential neighborhoods in town might impose a nighttime curfew?

Is it really folly to think it strange that six of the seven airport commissioners are pilots? Doesn’t The Tribune think that broader public representation on that board might serve the community interest better? And shouldn’t the town’s only newspaper serve the community interest better by considering all sides of the issue?

And finally, is it really folly to think that the airport’s current location represents a significant impact on the logical and compact development of our city? Look at a map of the city, and think about how flight path restrictions split the city and drive development in opposite directions. Consider the housing limits placed on the Dalidio property, a mile away.

In the paper’s own article on this subject Jan. 21, the writer began by noting that complaints about noise are predictable when cities grow into outlying areas where airports had been previously isolated. He blamed the residents. I’ll complete the thought in another way: Perhaps it is time to think about moving our airport out of what is becoming an increasingly urbanized and densely populated area of the city.

In the meantime, the editorial does a disservice to the community. The editors have clearly been listening to airport-friendly scolds excoriating those of us who aren’t quite prepared to accept without question all the various intrusions — night revs, buzzing drones, dopey and inconsiderate pilots — we’ve come to expect from airport operations. The editorial makes it sound as if the complaints come from a few isolated cranks. In fact, neighborhood associations representing hundreds of homeowners in the area are increasingly concerned about the issue; I’m sure they will continue to make their views known.

One final note: The advisory to potential homebuyers in the area may be a good idea, although a lawyer may have another opinion on the subject. It’s hard to see how a disclosure in a contract between buyer and seller protects an entity outside the agreement. In any event, the airport must still be a good neighbor, and the flying community must still take reasonable care and neighborly consideration.

Kent Macdonald has lived near the San Luis Obispo airport for the past two years.

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