Growth at airport not out of control

After reading the R-C Guest Opinion from March 28, 2007, I decided to get involved. After all, that was the primary message of Jennifer Ware's editorial. To begin, I must disclose that I am a private pilot, fly a very small airplane, but do not run a business at the airport. I rent a hangar from the county and have an interest in the future of our airport. Last month, I attended the Airport Advisory committee meeting and Wednesday, I attended the airport master plan committee meeting. The complaint that seems to be aired at these meetings, and in the media, is that airport growth is out of control and soaring is in decline at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. After 10 years in the Valley, I have not noticed either, so I decided to dig deeper.

Minden-Tahoe Airport is a small town airport with a country flare and growth at the airport is not out of control. In 1993, Douglas County adopted the Douglas County Airport Master Plan. In this public document, it is reported that in 1991 there were an estimated 76,300 operations. In data published by the consulting firm currently working on the new airport master plan, it is reported that in 2005 there were 79,800 estimated operations. This equates to a year over year growth rate of 1Ú3 of a percent for the past 14 years. Given what the overall growth in the county was during this period, the airport is the best kept secret in the Valley. The airport's past growth rate is also in line with the current consulting report of 1Ú2 of 1 percent forecasted growth per year for the next 20 years.

What about the decline of soaring at the airport? The 1993 master plan data shows that in 1991 there were an estimated 27,328 glider-related operations at the airport. The current consulting report shows that in 2005, that number is estimated at 30,800 glider-related operations. These reports indicate that glider activity is actually up by 12.7 percent; not in decline as Jennifer Ware and the Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition leads us to believe. And furthermore, in 1989, there were at least two glider-based businesses sharing the 27,000 annual operations. Today, there is basically one glider operator, Soar Minden. They operate the lion's share of the 30,000 annual glider operations. So how is it that his business is down by 50 percent as reported in Jennifer's editorial? After looking at the hard numbers, Soar Minden's business appears to be growing. So who is the Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition?

I searched the online FAA's pilot database and this is what I found. There are nine CVVC board members. The pilot database search revealed that five of the nine members are non-pilots. But the other four are all glider pilots including Jennifer Ware and Jim Herd. Does the Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition have a hidden agenda that is focused on gliders? It would appear so. Remember, there are many users of the airport and all concerns must be considered in the next master plan.

I try very hard to look at all the facts and take a common sense approach to solving issues. If we all sit back and don't question the comments of others, the squeaky wheel will get the grease. But if we ask why the wheel is squeaking in the first place, we can fix the wheel instead of covering it up with grease. The current master plan and airport advisory committees are doing a great service to the public and the County in addressing everyone's concerns. But, they can't do it without input from the airport users and the public. Get involved and most of all get the facts and ask lots of questions.

-- John Endter is a Minden resident


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