The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered Douglas County to remove a note that Minden-Tahoe Airport has a weight ordinance.
Airports Compliance Specialist Racior R. Cavole wrote Airport Manager Jim Braswell on Feb. 13 giving the county 10 days to remove a note about the weight ordinance that has been in the Airport Facility Directory for more than a dozen years.
Braswell said Thursday he filed the appropriate paperwork under orders of Assistant County Manager Michael Brown.
"The Federal Aviation Administration ... has not accepted nor approved any such ordinance for publication," Cavole wrote. "Until the runway pavement strength has been determined to be negatively impacted by any particular aircraft, it is premature and against FAA regulations."
"The Airport Facility Directory is their publication," Braswell said. "I think they are saying they don't recognize the ordinance."
Braswell said the note has been included in the directory since he became airport manager in 1995.
"The reason it was put there was to let people know there is a weight ordinance in Douglas County," he said. "The hardest thing this community has had to come to grips with is signing assurances to accept grants. Those assurances require that we be fair and equitable to all, which flies in the face of the ordinance itself. Just one of those issues that is hard to deal with."
Douglas County voters approved the latest version of the weight ordinance in 1992.
In 1992, voters approved an increase of that weight limit to 50,000 pounds. Due to airport improvements that resulted in an increase in the runway's strength, the airport can now support planes weighing up to 110,000 pounds and residents could be asked to increase that limit again in 2008 or 2010.
Braswell said that the airport issues about 20 letters each year to overweight aircraft, mostly Gulfstreams.
Airport businesses, including Hutt Aviation, have been challenging the weight limit at the Federal Aviation Administration since 1996, according to a 2005 memorandum written by Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Bob Morris.
In Aug. 16, 2004, the county was asked to alter the airport layout plan to reflect a paving evaluation conducted in 2002 after Hutt Aviation filed a complaint with with the FAA saying the weight limit violates the county's assurance agreement to make the airport available for public use without discrimination.
Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition President Dave MacNeil wondered why suddenly the note has become an issue for the FAA.
"We feel like 'gosh never seemed to be a problem before, never sent a notice before,'" he said. "It seems interesting why now is it a suddenly a problem where the FAA telling us it has to be removed. The county does precious little to promote any kind of awareness in the aviation community to say there is a ordinance in place."
MacNeil said the removal of the note was not authorized by Douglas County Commissioners.
"We're really concerned about this whole action on the part of county staff," he said. "From our perspective, county staff is doing this on their own initiative. What we find really incredulous is that they've taken this action without prior authorization from county commissioners."
MacNeil said he believes staff members lobbied the Federal Aviation Administration to issue the letter in conjunction with some airport businesses.
MacNeil believes removing the note will increase the number of landings by aircraft heavier than those allowed under the weight ordinance.