Some questions about the airport ordinance

I have concerns about the following, which is from the proposed airport use ordinance.

Section 3: Limitations on airport expansion: Except as required by law, or contractual requirements existing on the effective date of this ordinance, the following actions shall not be taken without first having been submitted to the electorate for their approval at the next general election.

A. Runways, Taxiways and Ramps. Extension or widening of existing paved runways; creation of any new paved runways except for sailplane operations consistent with the Airport Master Plan; performance of any work that would increase the current weight bearing capacity of the runways except as may minimally occur in the course of maintenance work; or strengthening of taxiways and ramps, except to the extent necessary to conform to the weight bearing capacity of the runways.

First, are there any existing laws or contractual requirements which would apply?

Second, in 1943 when the airport became operational the B-17, Flying Fortress, and B-24, Liberator were considered as the heavy aircraft. The B-17 has a maximum take off gross weight of 65,500 pounds and the B-24 had a maximum gross takeoff weight of 71,200 pounds The maximum gross weight being the total of the airplane basic weight, plus crew, plus oils and fuel, plus guns and ammo, plus bombload, etc.

Many of the fields built at that time were intended to be training bases and due to the landing impacts associated with a training base the runways were built to handle the heavy loads while the taxiways, ramps, etc. were built to handle much lighter loads.

In communications regarding the weight bearing capability of the airport, Racior R. Cavole, of the FAA, San Francisco District Office in his letter of Aug. 16, 2004, to Mr. Braswell states:

"Operation of an aircraft in the 60,000 pound and 75,000 pounds classes, if restricted from a few areas should not have a significant impact on pavement performance. The evaluation states that "the limiting factors for operations are certain parking areas on the ramp and restricting taxing operations from the mid-field connectors on Taxiway A. For these aircraft taxing procedures can be established to address aircraft parking and taxiway restrictions."

In replying to my inquiry about situations where different airport pavements have different weight-bearing capabilities, Mr. David L. Bennett, FAA Director of Airport Safety and Standards, in his letter of June 9, 2005, states:

"As a basic airport design principle, taxiways and ramps are generally built to the same weight-bearing capacity as the runways served by those taxiways and ramps. If, for some historical reason, the current limits of various airport pavements are not all the same, then the weight-bearing capacity of the lowest-capacity pavement in the taxi route would be used."

Racior Cavole's letter of 2004 states "the limiting factors for operation are certain parking areas on the ramp and restricting taxing operation from the mid-field connectors on Taxiway A."

Doesn't Mr. Bennett's statement of 2005 validate Cavole's statement that the limiting factors are the parking and taxiways?

If the FAA is now changing their June 9, 2005, thinking shouldn't we be grandfathered in?

Per the proposed ordinance the commissioners cannot make changes to the runways without the approval of the electorate, but they can fund the strengthening of taxiways and ramps to meet the weight bearing capability of the runways without the electorate approval. Why?

If the FAA, Racior Cavole and Mr. Bennett says the limiting factors are the parking areas and ramps, why do the commissioners want the power to increase the capabilities of these areas without going to the electorate?

Next, both South Lake Tahoe and Carson City are working to improve their airport facilities in hopes of attracting larger aircraft. Carson City is moving hillsides. Why should Douglas County try to compete? Do we expect federal and state officials and employees, along with visiting business people to fly into Minden rather than Carson City? Maybe we should look to attract the smaller aircraft which might want to relocate from these other facilities and let the FAA add more funding to the improvements at those facilities. Just how many regional jet ports are really needed in this area and can be supported financially without public assistance?

Lastly, I believe in a free enterprise system. The major beneficiary of any increase in the weight limit might be Hutt Aviation or Pinon Aero as the increase could mean a potential major increase in their market size. If that potential really exists maybe they, rather than the Douglas County taxpayers, should be picking up the tab for increasing the weight bearing capability of the taxiways and ramps.

Sanford E. Deyo is a Minden resident.


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