Federal Requirements Boost Safety Costs at Santa Maria Airport

Monday, June 4, 2007
Federal requirements boost safety costs at Santa Maria airport
The Associated Press

SANTA MARIA, Calif. – It’s going to be costly to implement federally mandated safety and security measures at Santa Maria Public Airport, officials say. It will cost $279,000 to add a firefighting position needed to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules for certification, and airport officials are concerned they won’t be fully reimbursed for police officers at the airfield. Santa Maria Public Airport operates mostly as a general aviation facility, but its few commercial flights forces airport officials to comply with strict regulations for public safety, general manager Gary Rice said. Federal requirements call for a firefighter to be present during all “air carrier operations,” meaning aircraft rescue and firefighter personnel must be at the airport 15 minutes before and after all scheduled commercial flights.

Three firefighters are stationed at the airport’s Santa Barbara County Fire Station 21. But the firefighters sometimes answer calls off airport property.

The airport is now considering a fourth person who could stay at the station if the other three are on an emergency call.

The cost for filling the fourth firefighting position would come from the airport operating budget and has been included in next year’s fiscal plan, Rice said.

Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration reimburses Santa Maria Public Airport for security. But the $199,246 from the TSA to pay for two Santa Maria police officers to provide the required added security didn’t include overtime, which costs the airport about $20,000 a year, Rice said.

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