A plane comes in for landing Monday at the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. The airport committee approved an improvement plan last week, which includes extended the east runway shown above. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad airport master plan proposal heads to county

CARLSBAD — A runway extension and other improvements at Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport is gearing up for take off.

The airport advisory committee unanimously supported a proposal to upgrade the facility on Oct. 22 as part of a new 20-year Master Plan. The matter will be submitted to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, who will consider adopting the measure in summer 2016.

Numerous residents in attendance, however, railed against the proposal citing noise and traffic concerns and a lack of commercial carriers available to North County residents.

Peter Drinkwater, the county airports manager, presented three possible options to the committee, although staff’s recommendation was for a C/D-III modified alternative, with a 900-foot runway extension on the east side. The price tag for the upgrades is estimated at more than $100 million.

“If it remains a B-II and we are not striving to make those improvements, we’re really not addressing the reality of the operations at the airport,” Drinkwater said.

Currently, the airport is designated a B-II with more than 6,000 C, D and III operations yearly. The designations determine the wingspan and approach speeds of aircraft allowed to operate at the facility.

The new classification already fits the size and scope of aircraft operating at the airport, Drinkwater said.

“FAA guidance says that when an airport has 500 or more of operations of aircraft in an approach category or design group greater than the current airport design, then planning should commence to determine how to meet these standards,” Drinkwater said.

He said the recommended proposal conforms to all standards with modifications north of the runway, reducing it from 400 feet to 362.

The other options, including continuing the B-II designation, were not favored by the committee.

“With our reality being 6,000 in this class today, there could be questions about funding our development as a B-II airport because that’s not in conformance of regulations,” said Chuck Collins, chairman of the committee. “To be in conformance, we should go to the different design because that would ensure the opportunity for funding. That’s how I understand it.”

As for the noise, Drinkwater and Vince Hourigan of Kimley-Horn, a consultant on the project, said the extended runway will allow aircraft to gain altitude faster and thus reduce noise pollution.

Stephanie Jackal of the South Vista Communities, a nonprofit supporting quality of life, was against the proposal. She said quality of life for residents is “utterly being ignored.”

“Noise (issues) only comes up on takeoffs, but what about landings?” she asked the board. “Until something is fixed, we are not in favor of your Master Plan.”

Larry Posner of Carlsbad said he has heard these stories before and railed against the project.

“How many carriers are leaving and not coming back?” he asked. “There are not enough people. United Express … what happened to them? A new one came in and they’re gone. You got to have the action for them to come. Extending the runway won’t help.”

Also in support of the plan were the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, San Diego North Economic Development Council and North County’s largest tech employer, ViaSat.

“We provide communications for avionics and this is an issue near and dear to our heart,” said James Person, director of Global Business Development for ViaSat. “We are in favor of a runway extension. Traffic out of the airport has dropped by about 66 percent for our employees. Our customers have to reposition to S.D. and pick up fuel before heading to Asia. It’s a waste of resources. We need the airport for our customers as well as our employees.”

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3 comments

Bill October 27, 2015 at 3:12 pm

I’ve lived within 4 miles of the airport for over 30 years. It could a good neighbor but it’s not. More aircraft does not mean less noise, more aircraft does not mean better safety, more aircraft does not mean an improved lifestyle for the majority of residents. I’ve seen and heard aircraft below 1000 feet and nothing is done, I’ve seen and heard aircraft that do not wait to make the mandated turn distance and fly over homes and if you believe that this little extension of the runway is the last one needed…., then you need to just live a bit longer to understand how the world works.
This is all about big business, big money and the future funding of our politicians hopes and dreams.

Andrew October 28, 2015 at 8:45 am

The truth is, Lindbergh Field will reach capacity limits in the years ahead. There is no way to expand the footprint of that airport or add another runway. Voters killed off the idea of building a new airport. The regional economy depends in part on the cost and convenience of connecting with global suppliers, partners and customers.

So, where will seat capacity growth come from for commercial service?

Answer: other airports.

The bridge to TIJ will help, but not for domestic travel (international terrifs, fees, and the hassle of customs and immigration are barriers).

Commercial service left CLD because the regional affiliates are all retiring propeller driven aircraft in favor of small jets. Passengers have a perception that props are less safe, less reliable, less modern and comfortable. Travelers were actively avoiding segments served by prop aircraft. So the regional carriers listen to the customer, and shift fleets to jet service.

CLD’s runway is too short for the regional jets, so the regional carriers were forced to withdraw from CLD. The lengthened runway will allow them to return.

You can’t get to many destinations on a non-stop from Lindbergh Field. You can’t get to Amsterdam or Frankfurt or Singapore or Beijing. You can’t get directly to Syracuse or Nashville or Jaxonville. The fact is, for most destinations, passengers will need to switch planes at a major hub airport. If you are going to transfer anyway, then there is no advantage to departing out of Lindbergh. North County fliers can leave home later, park closer, and get to the gate faster with commercial service out of CLD.

We need the runway lengthened to bring back regional carriers to serve all the major hubs west of Denver and Houston.

I live within two miles of the airport. Since I’ve moved here, Ive seen traffic increase on 5, El Camino Real, and Palomar Airport road. I hear more trains too. But the airport traffic is down 66%. I think the airport can grow a little from the current levels and still remain the lowest growing piece of transportation infrastructure in the region.

OsideVoter October 29, 2015 at 3:41 pm

If folks read previous articles, Supervisor Horn wants international flights to and from China into Carlsbad. Fly-in tourism. College Blvd. is being extended from Oceanside to Palomar. “Fly in” to do what? Go to the beach? Or could it have something to do global developer/investors building all over the County.

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