So … once again the forces of darkness make threatening noises towards another airport. Remember Meigs Field in Chicago? Now, Santa Monica is close to falling. First, let’s throw a couple of definitions at you: airport, n. sworn enemy of real estate developers; Real Estate Developers, colloq. phrs. scum-sucking, bottom-dwelling, butt-kissing pieces of rancid fecal matter.
Is Montgomery Field in danger of closing? Not immediately. The City of San Diego keeps taking Federal handouts to repave runways, etc, which obliges them to keep the airport open for a specific number of years. But there are forces at play that may cause the locals rise up and demand the airport’s closure. Let’s chat.
Back in 1992, it was decided to extend the instrument runway, 28R, to accommodate some of the more popular jets and turboprops. The City got the residents of the surrounding communities – Serra, Kearney and Clairemont Mesas, Tierra Santa and parts of Linda Vista – to accept the deal by including certain promises in its RESOLUTION NUMBER R-(R-92-2009)280194. Some of the more salient points of this resolution are as follows:
1. That the purpose of this resolution is to clarify the 1984 Montgomery Field Airport Master Plan.
2. That the weight bearing capacity of all runways at Montgomery Field is 12,000 pounds for aircraft with single wheel landing gear configurations in accordance with F.A.A. Pavement Strength Survey dated March 9, 1981.
3. That the use of Montgomery Field Airport is restricted to only those aircraft which have a maximum certificated gross takeoff weight of 20,000 pounds or less.
4. That the extended portion of the runway be designed, marked, and used as a displaced threshold which will provide an additional 1,200 feet of runway to be used for takeoff on Runway
28 Right but will limit the runway length available for landing to the existing 3,400 feet.
5. That the length of runway available for takeoff on Runway 10 Left be limited to the existing 3,400 feet.
6. That Montgomery Field will not be developed to
accommodate the full range of general aviation aircraft but will provide facilities for only those aircraft which can comply with the established airport noise and weight limitations.
7. That any aircraft based at Montgomery Field be able to demonstrate compliance with the established airport noise limits.
8. That The City of San Diego will not pursue a development strategy or seek F.A.A. certification for Montgomery Field to function as a base for scheduled commuter or air carrier operations.
Let’s consider item 3. On at least one occasion in, I believe July, 2015, an aircraft was allowed to land at Montgomery whose maximum certificated gross takeoff weight (MGTOW) was in excess of 20,000 pounds – a clear violation of the City Council resolution. We’re not certain, yet, who allowed this, but we have suspicions.
Regarding item 4, the Deputy Director of Airports has stated that he would like the displaced threshold to go away, so that larger aircraft would be able to land at Montgomery. The idea behind this is to enable greater fuel sales and to charge larger landing fees. Perhaps good for the City’s Airports Department and an FBO, but certainly bad for residents in the noise sensitive neighborhoods surrounding the airport and, oh, by the way, directly prohibited by the City Council’s resolution.
Abandoning the displaced threshold would also enable larger, more powerful aircraft to land at Montgomery Field. Larger aircraft that require a longer takeoff roll would attain substantially lower altitude at the departure end of the runway – and closer to the ground means a much larger noise impact on the surrounding homes.
Which, conveniently, brings us to item 6. The City Council mandated noise limits from 6:30 am until 11:30 pm are 88 decibels; from 11:30 pm until 6:30 am, the limit drops to 70 decibels. There are larger aircraft – quite a few of them over the 20,000 pound MGTOW that are under consideration by the Airports people – that would regularly exceed the City’s mandated noise limits. As already mentioned, the removal of the displaced threshold would put any number of new-to-Montgomery aircraft much closer to the homes in noise sensitive neighborhoods.
What’s it all mean? I can’t imagine that the Deputy Director of Airports for the City of San Diego would advocate policy changes that would alienate the residents of the City’s noise sensitive neighborhoods. Can you? I mean, what if these potential policy changes caused the neighbors to revolt and advocate the closing of the airport? Why would an airport director want to jeopardize his job?
On the other hand, would some scum-sucking real estate developer be willing to do some dirty dealing if he could offer incentives to a city employee to be able to bid on the land now occupied by Montgomery? Nah. Not possible. Really, I mean how much money could a bottom-dwelling real estate developer make if he were allowed to develop Montgomery’s 456 acres of prime real estate?
What’s the point of all this speculation, you ask? Well, perhaps you can consider this a cautionary tale that may prepare you, gentle reader, to take action. What kind of action? If you live near Montgomery Field, you might email your City Council Person to remind him or her that the Council passed a resolution in 1992 promising the residents who live near the airport that the Runway 28R displaced threshold would remain intact, and that aircraft with a MGTOW of 20,000 pound or more were prohibited to land at Montgomery. You can find the email addresses of your Council Person on the City’s website: http://www.sandiego.gov/.
What else can you do? If you haven’t already, you can join the Montgomery Field Airport Association by contacting me at the email address listed in my contact information on the “Contact Us” drop down menu.
You can expect to hear more about these issues in these pages in the coming months.