Study says runway can withstand 75,000 pounds

A study of the pavement at Minden-Tahoe Airport indicates it can withstand aircraft in excess of 75,000 pounds in certain sections, but ongoing monitoring is recommended.

The study was presented to county commissioners Thursday by Steve Seeds of Applied Pavement Technology.

Based on 2005 statistics, the report was hailed as a template for future studies and criticized as "backward-thinking."

"You can use it to go to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), and say, 'we're limited,' because of the strength," said Tony Sabino, owner of Soar Minden.

In 1992, Douglas County voters approved a single-wheel weight limit of 30,000 pounds and dual-wheel weight limit of 50,000 pounds.

"The FAA can't increase it or take away your funding," Sabino said. "It's a win-win situation. I recommend you do accept it and use it the way you should use it to support the wishes of the community."

Commission Chairman Kelly Kite said the report provided a good defense for the current weight ordinance.

"The way I read it, we've probably got plenty of strength in the runway, but we're weak in the taxiway and the apron," said Commissioner Jim Baushke. "It's no good to land an airplane if you can't move it to the taxiways, aprons or parking ramps.

"We've been fussing with this thing for two or three years and we're getting a handle just where we are in weight capacity. I don't know if with certain limits we could survive day after day," Baushke said.

"I think we should keep the weight ordinance where it is and go to a program where the we grant 'good neighbor' exemptions to Starbucks and General Electric with a prior permission program. It would be probably a fairly low number of airplanes," Baushke said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Morris told the board it would be difficult to pick a single number.

"The weight capacity of the runway has become such an overbearing problem, we've lost sight of a lot of stuff that needs to go on at the airport. This looks to the future. It says if we have all these planes land, will the runway be OK?" Morris said.

During the wildland fire season, the airport maintains a base for air tankers that exceed the weight limit.

"If you allow the P3s (tankers), you're going to have to allow similar-size aircraft. By wanting to keep bombers there, you really have to open up the airport," Morris said.

"The number is always going to be a moving target," he said. "Find out what planes are willing to land, put them in the chart, and see if the runway will hold up. It seems to me the airport runway is pretty strong."

Resident Jim Slade urged the board to reject the report because it's based on 2005 statistics.

"It's not forward-looking. What if there are more flights?" he said, referring to the proposed Pinon Aero Center 87-acre air park at the airport.

"Damage is cumulative. The study is too static. Do you limit the number of flights or reduce the weight limit?" he asked.

Commissioners accepted the report and asked for updated figures.


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