Weight limit delayed

A voter initiative to consider changing the weight limits at Minden-Tahoe Airport will be delayed until 2008, following completion of the airport's master plan. Commissioners unanimously approved the measure Thursday, a move hailed by some Douglas County residents and chastised by others.

"You're giving the community two years to work with you and hopefully, the majority of us can then agree," Marion Barritt said. "It's better than getting this issue shoved down our throats."

One of the first efforts to limit growth at the airport came in 1984 when the first voter-mandated weight restriction, 30,000 pounds for single-wheel aircraft, was imposed in 1984.

Airport Advisory member Bill Schroeder said businesses have followed the unprecedented growth over the last 10 years.

"People are bringing their own corporate structures," he said "We can't go backwards."

Douglas County resident Ed Court said this move would discourage those thinking of moving here.

"We'll be paying a price economically," he said "We'll remain stagnant for two years and possibly beyond."

One of the first efforts to limit growth at the airport came in 1984 when the first voter-mandated weight restriction, 30,000 pounds for single-wheel aircraft, was imposed in 1984 and it's those weight restrictions that have lead to the issues.

Concerns for county officials with respect to weight limits came after Hutt Aviation, a local airport-based business, filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration in September 2004, charging the airport's weight ordinance, 30,000 pounds for single-wheel and 50,000 pounds for dual-wheel aircraft, is antiquated and unreasonable.

The limits violate FAA regulations, which require the airport be available for public use without unjust discrimination, when local officials accept federal funding for maintenance.

Since 1984, the county has received about $17.5 million in federal dollars to maintain airport operations, including overlays critical to maintaining the runway that ultimately enhanced its strength.

The Hutt complaint was subsequently dismissed without prejudice by the FAA, which means they can reinstate the complaint at any time, according to Bob Morris, chief deputy district attorney for Douglas County.

FAA officials will not consider Hutt's initial complaint unless a "substantial and reasonable effort" has been made to resolve the issue informally. Hutt tried to produce that information by filing an amended complaint in January 2005 without success, Morris said.

That doesn't mean the pressure is off.

In August 2004, the FAA asked county officials to modify the airport's layout plan, which contains the weight limitation.

A second request from the FAA came in June 2005 and in February 2005, the National Business Aviation Association wrote a letter to Airport Manager Jim Braswell, stating that the Minden-Tahoe Airport's may be user discrimination.

Runway overlays provide the maintenance needed to repair weathering and cracks, but these overlays often add strength.

In an effort to reconcile the weight limits, Douglas County's board of commissioners approved three ways to arrive at a pavement capacity weight.

John Morgan, president of the Minden Airport Association said a lot of suspicion in the community at large with respect to the weight limits has been generated by business decisions made at the airport.

Deals like these are squeezing out soaring enthusiasts, the use of that land lost for tie-down spaces, camping areas, and ultimately tourism dollars that would have been spent by the soaring community, Morgan said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment