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Community Raises Questions About Palomar Airport Master Plan Update

Public Open House About Master Plan Update for Palomar Airport, Feb 5th 2014

Aired 2/7/14 on KPBS News.

A new master plan for Palomar Airport in Carlsbad is in the making, and this week the community had a chance to comment.

Some in the community would like to see Palomar Airport airport expanded, others aren’t so sure. San Diego County’s 1997 master plan for the airport is close to reaching the end of its planning horizon, so an update is underway to see which options will fly.

As the county’s web site says, “the Master Plan will consider many factors including market trends, land use opportunities and constraints, natural resources, community concerns, and financial feasibility.”

The first of a series of four public workshops was to uncover and address community concerns.

People who showed up had plenty of questions. Some wanted to know when the existing commercial flights to Los Angeles would be expanded to Phoenix and San Francisco. According to representatives from Sky West, that would not be feasible without an expansion of the runway, an option that is on the table.

Map of Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, 2014

Others who came to the meeting were worried about noise levels going up. A map where people put in a pin to show where they live in relation to the runway, showed a number live within just a few miles. They were concerned about pilots who do not follow the official flight path directly west, and who turn left before they reach the ocean, to fly directly over their homes.

Vince Hourigan, project manager for the master plan update, said the county has no control over the flight path, that’s under the authority of the FAA.

“But,” he said, “input will be taken back and I’ll share it with the control tower and then they can do what they can do.”

Hourigan said a study shows 76 percent of North County residents currently choose to use Lindbergh Field, 23 percent choose LA airports, while less than 2 percent choose Palomar. Future developments at Palomar could take the pressure off people using Interstate-5 to get to an airport, he said.

Vince Hourigan, Project Manager of the Palomar Airport Master Plan Update. Feb 5th 2014

Palomar is home to almost 240 aircraft currently. That is a significant drop from the 600 based there 10 years ago. But the kind of aircraft has changed: small general aviation, single-engine planes have been replaced with larger corporate jets.

Before the next public workshop, the county will develop alternative plans, based on which service level forecast is selected. The FAA forecast calls for a gradual increase in passengers, but if things like another airline are added to the mix, or if Lindbergh Field runs out of space, those forecasts could change.

The county hopes to move through California’s environmental impact process and the public input process this year, and vote on a preferred alternative for Palomar Airport’s future by 2015.

Three more public workshops are planned, but they have not yet been scheduled.

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