Castle Airport Name Change?

Editorial by Ace Bowman
Castle Airport Pilot Representative

The meeting at Castle this morning was productive, although the presence of a County Supervisor (any) would have been perhaps more helpful. The idea of renaming Castle Airport was discussed at length, and in detail. This was a proposal put forth by marketing professionals who felt that a name change with something about “Central California” or “Central California-Yosemite” as the title would better identify the location of the airport. Obviously, little thought was given to the idea prior to the meeting today. True, some emotional venting occured, but some real history of renamed and not renamed former air force bases well illustrated that a name change would gain little, and could lose ground as far future development at Castle airport goes. Secondly, real technical problems at this point would obviously be detrimental to present and future aviation and associated activity. And finally, this author pointed out that the name Castle Airport and Aviation Development Center was approved 6-0 in a very public Castle Joint Powers Authority meeting without debate from any side some 12 years past

In the historical context, McClellan Airport and Mather Airport have been successfully converted without name change. This is true at many other locations in the US; Plattsburgh Airport in Clinton County, New York was presented as an example of a successful, forward leaning AF base conversion in an upstate rural area. There also have been a few name change successes as well. However, these successful conversions almost always occur at the time of closure, not 8 or 10 or 12 years later. Only one exception to that is the former Williams AFB in Phoenix which has been renamed. But that occurred under special circumstances. That airport recently was designated as a reliever airport for Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport along with the name change. Sky Harbor has long been much overcrowded and airline service is now also availble at the old Williams AFB. The former Norton and Victorville AFBs are examples of name change which occurred at the time of conversion. A name change for Castle at this point would only cause great confusion in the aviation community and would gain little.

The technical difficulties in changing the name at this point are formidable. First, within the aviation and aviation support communities – General Aviation, military and scheduled – Castle Airport is already pretty well known. Very few who fly up and down the state, or across it, don’t know Castle. Hard to miss on a clear day, and often on hazy days. A name change would take some getting used to there. Far more serious, though, and a very real negative is listing in the aviation technical publications. These range from FAA regulations to airport guides to recurring instrument procedures to aeronautical charts and much more. These publications are published and provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense (and sometimes the individual services), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Jeppsen, and other commercial sources. Publication ranges from instant Notice to Airmen to annually for others. These publications are often mandatory, and are heavily used; the aviation communities depends on them.

The list gets long . The point is that getting a name change into these vital publications is no easy task. I well remember that when Castle AFB closed, it literally disappeared from some publications. It was my function to insure reinstatement, not always simple after Castle became a non-Federal aviation entity. Beyond that was the job of getting properly listed in many of the civil aviation publications. Listing usually took 6 months at a minimum, as was the case after the FAA approved the Instumemt Landing Approach to Castle (the same approach the USAF had been using for more than 20 years). A name change would beget the same result, or worse. It took three years to get Castle Airport into the AOPA Airport Guide. It would have taken longer if the AOPA President hadn’t visited Castle and been given a hand written memo.

Also, a simple error along the way takes huge time to correct. For several years, Castle was listed as “Castle” in some publications, and then “Atwater-Castle” in others. That old, old error carried until just a few months ago in some Federal publications. Over 10 years to finally get it right.

Whatever the experiences, a name change is a very serious undertaking and any change based on speculation or “maybe” should be avoided. Castle has been marketed as Castle for about 15 years, and unless there is an obvious huge and instant payoff, it should continue that way.

It was understood that there would be more public hearings after full notification if the name change is to be further pursued.

I will point out that this might have flown further if Jim Price at Gemini hadn’t gone to the Supervisor Meeting where the District 3 Supervisor was about to stealth vote it in on an otherwise deadly dull Agenda. Kudos for Jim!

Ace Bowman
Long time Castle Airport User

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