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Public Has Chance To Weigh In On Palomar Airport 20-Year Master Plan

Aerial view of Palomar Airport and surrounding property in Carlsbad is shown ...

Credit: San Diego County

Above: Aerial view of Palomar Airport and surrounding property in Carlsbad is shown in this undated photo.

Public Has Chance To Weigh In On Palomar Airport 20-Year Master Plan

GUEST:

Alison St John, north county reporter, KPBS

Residents who live around McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad have about six weeks to comment on a master plan that will guide the regional airport’s growth over the next 20 years. Some residents are concerned about the proposal to lengthen the runway.

Residents who live around McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad have about six weeks to comment on a master plan that will guide the regional airport’s growth over the next 20 years. Some residents are concerned about the proposal to lengthen the runway.

Palomar used to be the home of small private general aviation aircraft, but now much of the air traffic at the airport is larger private corporate jets.

At a public workshop last week reviewing the master plan, San Diego County Airport Program Coordinator Roger Griffith said in the case of private jets, the pilot decides whether it’s safe to land at an airstrip.

Increasingly large jets have been landing at Palomar. Now, a sufficient number of large jets land and take off there that the Federal Aviation Administration has asked San Diego County, which owns the runway, to upgrade it to make it safer for those so-called “critical aircraft. ”

Photo credit: San Diego County

Location of McClellan Palomar Airport in Carlsbad

The runway is currently designed for B-11 class aircraft with a maximum 65-foot wingspan, but the goal now is to design the runway to safely accommodate D-111 class aircraft with up to 100-foot wingspans. Those jets can carry about 70 people.

The runway is currently less than 5,000 feet long and the plan would extend it by either 200 feet or 800 feet. The FAA would contribute to the cost. But the 800-foot option would be far more expensive because it would cross an old landfill, which would require piers to support the runway.

County officials told residents at the workshop that studies show the noise footprint for nearby residents will shrink under the master plan because newer aircraft are quieter and the new runway would change flight patterns.

But resident Ralph Semien was one of several who said the noise studies are misleading.

"There’s no noise sensors at all to the north,” Semien said. “There were sensors to the west and east but most of the traffic — as many people pointed out — is to the north and the south. There was one noise sensor, but that was taken out at the request of the person whose house was where the sensor was situated. There appears to be no plan to install new noise sensors to the north. That’s a problem."

Photo credit: San Diego County - Palomar Airport Master Plan

The McClellan-Palomar airport in Carlsbad is currently designed for B-11 class aircraft, but D-111 class aircraft are landing there, January 2018.

San Diego County owns the land under Palomar Airport runway — but the FAA controls what happens in the airspace above it. Many of the worries residents have about future improvements to the airport, like increasing noise and air pollution, are not under the control of the county, but of the FAA.

Griffiths said, because the runway will not expand beyond the boundary of the airport property, the master plan is not technically an expansion.

There will be an open house from 4-7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 7, at Palomar Airport. Another workshop is planned for the following Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in Carlsbad, but the county said there is no guarantee the FAA will attend.

The deadline for public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report on the master plan is March 19.

The plan is expected to go before the county's Board of Supervisors this summer. If it is approved, the next step will be a search for funding.

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