The Division of Aeronautics (Division), in the California Department of Transportation, focuses on maintaining a safe air transportation system statewide. Core safety activities include: permitting and conducting periodic airport and heliport inspections; investigating the acquisition of proposed school sites, community colleges, and state buildings near airports; and authorizing helicopter landings near schools. In the year ending June 30, 2003, the Division conducted 216 airport safety inspections (including 107 FAA Airport Master Record inspections); 133 heliport inspections, almost all at hospitals; and 446 helicopter landing authorizations near schools.
Many of you are familiar with airport land use issues, and we have worked with the California Pilot Association members in preserving and protecting airports. Environmental impact review of proposed developments potentially affecting airports is an essential Division responsibility, but also occurs, under land use compatibility law, during the latter stages of local government’s project approval. In order to be effective planners, we need to have early knowledge of major developments that could eventually jeopardize the existence of airports. Closely tied to environmental and land use planning is the administration of the State Airport Noise Regulations, primarily at the large commercial service airports.
California law requires the Division to develop a California Aviation System Plan (CASP). Several elements of the CASP have recently been updated or are nearing completion. These include: the Capital Improvement Plan, identifying safety and capacity projects for the state’s public owned airports; the System Requirements Element, which identifies safety and capacity enhancements necessary for the continued safe and effective operation of the state air transportation system; the Policy Element, which directs the state in terms of priorities for the aviation industry, and acts as a Strategic Plan; and the Inventory/Forecast Element, which tracks statistics and projects trends in the state aviation system. Our aviation planning staff coordinates with the surface transportation planning partners in the California Department of Transportation (Department), to facilitate goods movement, regional aviation and intermodal interconnectivity planning. Conversion of former military facilities to civilian use is a significant endeavor under the Division’s planning responsibilities.
The Division provides funding for general aviation airport grant aid and loans to maximize federal funds, support airport operation and maintenance, and assess airport pavement conditions. During these difficult economic times, funding for the airports has been curtailed. The Division is prioritizing the delivery of airport projects, to take full advantage of the limited resources.
The CPA was instrumental in supporting pro-aviation legislation in the California Legislature. AB 332 was signed into law, strengthening airport land use law in the area of local government overrides of airport land use commission actions. School districts and community colleges are also subject to the law, which provides commission jurisdiction on expansion of schools on existing property.
A Division publication recently released is the new “Aviation in California: Benefits to Our Economy and Way of Life”. This would be useful to any pilot in being better able to discuss the importance and value of their local airport.
While aviation education will be in hiatus for some time, we urge you to work with schools to encourage them to participate in the 2004 International Aviation Art Contest. The theme is “Flying Saves Lives”, and we know that members of the CPA have had wide experience in this area. The Division can help pilots with information on the art contest. For more information on the wide range of responsibilities, services, and activities of the Division of Aeronautics, please check our web site at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/aeronautics.
Editors Note: R. Austin Wiswell is the State of California’s Chief of Aeronautics. We appreciate his views, and look forward to working together to improve California?s Airports.