Airport plan brings few benefits to the whole community
In reply to the “Letter to the Editor” of Feb. 8, “What are the obstacles to airport plan?” we offer the following comments and observations.
As a preface we will make it clear that to the best of our knowledge no one has or is suggesting that Grove Field be closed. We have a very nice recreational airport that serves our community well and it is our hope that we keep it that way . Its current size and commitment is consistent with its rural residential location and the needs of our community.
As an aside, Pearson Airport off Highway 14 in Vancouver has unused capacity and is of such a size that it can accommodate a much broader community of aircraft than Grove Field could ever accommodate after spending $10 million of federal money that is being offered. Also we see no reason for South West Washington’s displaced aircraft to find it necessary to move out of state as indicated in the above referenced editorial. Pearson would love to have them.
Rotating the current runway, as suggested, will put it in a direct alignment with the adjacent mobile home park to the east there-by creating more of a safety problem with no plan it sight to purchase the mobile home park and shut it down. The FAA has stated that it does not have the money to buy the park and furthermore it seems to be an acceptable hazard to the operation of Grove Field in the “eyes” of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Shifting the runway and making it longer will then locate the western end in a direction that will have a more disadvantageous environmental/noise impact on the plans the City of Camas has for developing high end residential and compatible commercial operations on land currently referred to as the “Johnston Dairy”. Also it is our understanding that of the 80 or so aircraft currently based at Grove Field only 40 are certified “flyable” which leads us to wonder why we would support a project that might just have a disadvantageous impact on a pristine residential area.
The “plan” does not solve the “through the fence” issue that the FAA has identified as being unacceptable to the safe operation of any airport. This has to do with adjacent residential neighbors accessing the airport runway from their properties.
The current plan calls for the tunneling of Delp Road to accommodate the lengthening of the runway. This creates all sorts of area traffic problems and also requires an approximately $3 million contribution from the Port of Camas/Washougal – your tax dollars at “work.”
The current Environmental Assessment study includes language to the effect that if the Port does not make these suggested improvements, it opens itself up to potential lawsuits in the event of an accident. This is a scare tactic, in our opinion, and we urge the commissioners not to allow that kind of language to go forward in the Environmental Assessment document as prepared by the FAA consultants.
Following are our bigger concerns about the idea of spending approximately $10 million on Grove Field Airport:
The field currently does not meet minimum “design” standards as promulgated by the FAA and after the expenditure of $10 million will still not meet minimum design standards. It is well known that there are very few airports, including the larger commercial facilities, that do meet minimum standards.
Grove Field has not been designated as being unsafe. To the contrary, the FAA has issued a letter saying Grove Field is a safe airport. Please note that the pilot makes the final determination as to whether he/she can land safely. If the field does not meet their requirements, they have the obligation to go elsewhere – like Pearson Airport just a few miles to the west.
General aviation has been declining since its zenith in 1978. There has been a significant reduction in this industry, not only in student licenses, but in other licenses as well. New aircraft sales have declined with most manufacturers reducing or eliminating construction of smaller general aviation aircraft . All forecasts show little to no growth in piston aircraft (Cessna’s and other) with small increases in experimental and sports. These are usually smaller aircraft, used primarily for recreational operations, that can easily operate off the existing facility. And the FAA wants to spend approximately $10 million on a declining industry – something wrong with this picture.
The funds for these suggested improvements to Grove Field come from taxes on commercial airline seat sales and aviation gas sales that we have all paid, not just airplane owners. These are public monies, and are not free by any stretch of the imagination. In view of the above there does not seem to be a pressing need to spend approximately $10 million on Grove Field.
We conclude with the rhetorical question “how can we spend so much, to gain so little, for so few, given the general aviation future is so cloudy”?
Sheldon Tyler and