What’s been happening with the Montgomery Field Reconstruction project?
Funny you should ask. One of us (the writer) has had hand surgery which made him so stupid (much stupider?) for a while that he had a hard time composing words, let alone sentences, coherent thoughts or updates as to what was happening at Montgomery Field.
So, after the drug-induced vacuousity, he was in a cast (actually a series of six casts – bad patient, very bad patient) for seven weeks. Now, it seems that he can compose semi-lucid thoughts – hence, an update.
For those of you who have been flying, you already know that Montgomery is still under construction by the “What-Do-We-Care-We-Get-Our-Money-No-Matter-How-Slow-We-Work” Construction Company. (How do governments always seem to find these incompetent clowns?)
If you’ve not been flying, or, cleverly, chose to fly anywhere but MYF, 28L is not only shut down for takeoffs and landings, this latest phase has it torn up for reconstruction near the intersection of Runway 23. In addition taxiways Golf and Echo are closed, Golf 1 will be created to enter Hotel at an angle, and 23, of course, is still under reconstruction. So, if you don’t make taxiway Charlie when you land on 28R, you’ve gotta taxi the full length of the runway to taxiway Foxtrot. The rumor mill has it that by the end of March (we’re assuming 2016, but who knows), 28L will be completed and available for landings and takeoffs. Isn’t that amazing? After only nine months of reconstructing the crosswind runway that is used, perhaps five percent of the time, we may actually have both parallel runways functioning again as they were intended.
What has the Montgomery Field Airport Association been doing since our last communication? Here’s a brief summary. We’ve had three meetings of the interim board of directors. Larry Massaro and I met with Montgomery Air Traffic Manager, Tom Dray, and a supervising controller, in early December to plead for the reopening of 28L – and learned that would not happen – but we established a dialogue and emphasized that the Association wanted to help Air Traffic Control in any way possible.
You may remember an email I sent out requesting Association members to contact their City Council members expressing concerns over the delays of airport reconstruction. Many of you complied and received replies from Council member assistants, and the contacts established, I believe, prodded the Airports staff to push the contractor into more concerted action.
On two occasions, Board member John Barta met with MYF Airport Manager, Matt Schmitzer, to discuss the current horror that was Montgomery Field.
Board members Barta and Massaro met with Deputy Director of Airports, Rod Probst, and manager Schmitzer, to discuss the current status of airport construction and offer the Association’s help in getting the word out.
The upshot of all this has been an interesting study in psychology – if abnormal psych is of any interest. Let me try to share the essence of what we’ve learned.
First, let’s have a few words on the “Burrowing Owl Fiasco”. One of the initial reasons that the City Airports folk didn’t want to use 28L for takeoffs was that the construction company claimed that airplanes taking off near their employees might pose a hazard. One of their jobs was to install a drainage pipe underneath 28L. Once that was accomplished a burrowing owl was seen to be checking out the drainage pipe as a potential home for a potential bride and, if he was lucky, a potential brood of baby burrowing owls. This being California, a biologist (let’s call him “Bozo”) had to be called to examine the burrowing owl (whom we’ll refer to as “Freddie,” as in “Freddie the Freeloader”). Now, the burrowing owl isn’t an endangered species – it’s merely a bird of “interest” to the ever-vigilant tree-hugger hordes. At least a week, perhaps two, was wasted while “Bozo” determined if the burrowing owl wanted to nest under our runway. Remember too that “Freddie” hadn’t dug this burrow like an industrious Burrowing Owl. No, “Freddie” just decided to take advantage of a potential nesting area the construction company had provided. This was inconsequential to “Bozo” – a “bird of interest” had considered taking up residence in a city-provided burrow and it was his sworn duty to protect the freeloading feathered fiend. Fate, however, entered the fray – “Freddie,” perhaps because no self-respecting she-owl would take up with a welfare case, flew off into the sunset.
Next, let’s discuss the “Contract Manager Caper”. One might imagine that a big City might have someone in its employ who can read, write, interpret and enforce the many contracts into which a big City enters. Not ours. We hired a company to manage the “What-Do-We-Care-We-Get-Our-Money-No-Matter-How-Slow-We-Work” (WDWCWGOMNMHSWW) Construction Company. The person employed by the contract management company (can you stand this?) went missing for a while; or was kidnapped, or abducted by aliens. This person (let’s call him or her “Wankah”) failed to show at a number of meetings with Airports staff. So Airports staff wasn’t certain what was going on with the contract they’d signed with the “WDWCWGOMNMHSWW” Construction Company. (You cannot make stuff like this up. Astonishing, ain’t it?)
At some point, someone from the City contacted “Wankah” and he, she or it actually showed up for a meeting – and things are currently running more, or less, smoothly.
Now let’s pay attention to some statements made by the Deputy Director of Airports, Rod Probst. Mr Probst is a retired Marine Corps officer, which, I assume, means that he’s used to some form of respect, command, and the following of his orders. At a meeting of helicopter pilots, the helo group complained that the pattern altitude at MYF was too low, especially on the north side where it is 800′ AGL, or 1227′ MSL. Without conducting an investigation, discussing the situation with ATC, or involving fixed wing pilots, he arbitrarily raised the pattern altitude to 1000′ AGL. READY. SHOOT. AIM.
Mr Probst has expressed a desire to eliminate the 28R displaced threshold so that larger aircraft would be able to land at Montgomery. This is in direct conflict with City Council Resolution R-(R-92-2009)280194 which was approved in 1992. In the resolution, the City Council tossed a bone to airport area residents by stating that the 1200′ displaced threshold would specifically limit aircraft to a 3400′ landing distance – which obviously would limit noise impact around the airport from the larger aircraft that would be able to land with an additional 1200′.
In addition, the City Council also stipulated that the airport would be strictly limited to aircraft with a Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight of 20,000 lbs or less. In July, an airplane landed at Montgomery that weighed in excess of 20,000 lbs, – which had to be approved by someone in the Airports staff. We’re not certain who allowed this to happen – although we have an idea.
As I write this, on February 10, 2016, a Falcon 900EX was permitted to land at MYF. According to unnamed sources, the City Council resolution stating that aircraft over 20,000 lbs MGTOW were prohibited to land at MYF has been disregarded for the last ten months. The Falcon 900EX takeoff gross is 45,503 lbs. The last I looked, that would be 25,503 lbs. in excess of the City Council’s mandate. Does City Council know about this? More importantly, do the noise-affected neighbors of Montgomery Field know about this?
Finally, there’s the simple fact that this mismanaged cartoon of a project was ‘sposed to be completed this very month. Drive down to Montgomery Field some time in the next month or two, and take a look at the work in progress. I have seen emails from City employees assuring us that the reconstruction of 28L, Hotel, Golf and Golf 1 would be completed by the end of March of this year. There have been suggestions that the rest of the project should be completed by May of this year – but there are people betting that August is a more likely month for completion.
Consider that Runway 28R was completely rebuilt from the ground up beginning on October 1, 2012. In addition, another 800′ of Runway 23 was rebuilt, as well as overlaying the 1200′ displaced threshold. This job, perhaps performed by a real construction company, was completed on November 13, 2012, just over six weeks from its start. Someone explain to me how the current project, rebuilding 2600’ of a rarely used runway and some taxiways, can possibly take nearly a year to complete.
I believe that the members of the Montgomery Field Airport Association should start making serious inquiries into the reasons for the absurd delays in the current project. I believe that someone should be held responsible. When do we start?
And, if you want to join the MYFAA, send an email to the writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”