CARLSBAD — A mixed bag of reaction and response is how one San Diego County airport official described the Jan. 30 public meeting.
Olivier Brackett, airport manager of the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, said he believes the county did its part to provide open and transparent information to more than 100 residents in attendance to discuss the airport master plan update. The last update was done in 1997.
The main theme of the evening was noise and flight paths, where numerous residents directed their ire. Time and again, though, county officials had to remind residents those issues are controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration.
By the end of the question and answer session, Carlsbad resident Matt Shakter, who lives about two miles south of the airport, asked why no FAA representative was in attendance, and since they were not, what was the point of the meeting.
Residents railed against the lack of oversight on small aircraft flying all over the airspace and at all times of the night. Brackett said due to a change in the law in 1990, there are no restrictions on nighttime operations.
“They basically come in from the east, straight in, and they go out due west, and that really is true for the commercial planes,” he said. “It’s the little guys, the single-engine prop, they seem to go wherever they want. Something changed about five years ago. They used to be more in line with the guidelines.”
Brackett, though, said the FAA was not in tow because the county wanted to focus on the master plan, which calls for numerous upgrades to the airport.
Those include moving the taxiway and runway north, reducing noise on takeoff and landings, installing safety extensions in case an airplane overshoots its landing or takeoff, projecting the number of operations and passengers and extending the runway.
Additionally, the county stressed the master plan makes no mention, or is it in the plans, to expand the facility to handle jumbo jets. Many residents through the years believe the plan is to become the next John Wayne Airport.
However, John Wayne has 35 gates, handles more than four million passengers per year and is 98 percent larger than McClellan-Palomar Airport.
Officials said the master plan update is not expanding the boundaries, but improving what is already inside the property, which is owned by the county.
Residents, though, still hammered home their desire for the airport to remain small, reduce noise and vehicle traffic. In addition, several called for a public vote for the expansion.
According to the county, the master plan update does not fall under the city’s municipal code for a vote since the boundaries are not being moved.
“I think it went very well and we got all of our information out there,” Brackett said. “The county was here to explain the issues it can control, which is the master plan and the airport itself.”
As for the county’s projections under the new master plan, the baseline forecast calls for between 159,511 and 208,004 aircraft operations annually by 2036 using three scenarios. As for passengers, the county estimates a range between 171 and 500,000 annually by 2036, most of which would be from private operations.
Brackett also said the addition of a second commercial airline, California Pacific Airlines, is not scheduled to begin operations on April 1, as the company announced in 2017. The only commercial operator is Cal Jet Elite Air, which conducts just two round-trip daily flights to Las Vegas.
The master plan update is expected to go before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors later this year.
The county will host an open house at the airport from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 7 and another public meeting from 6 to 8:30 Feb. 13 at the Holiday Inn, 2725 Palomar Airport Road.