Douglas airport approved for new landing system |

Douglas airport approved for new landing system

Lorna McDaniel

Pilots flying into the Douglas County Airport will get an eye in the sky with the approval of the Global Positioning System by the County Board of Commissioners

The system, which uses a satellite, will allow for non-precision landing of aircraft during bad weather, according to Jim Braswell, airport facilities operator.

The system, approved at the Feb. 6 commission meeting, will be installed by the Federal Aviation Administration at no cost to the county once the Automated Weather Observation System is in place, Braswell said.

“Where we are on (the FAA’s) list?” he said, “I don’t know.”

He said the AWAS is in house, and bids for installation are being taken.

The AWAS should be in by June and the GPS six months later.

“We’re hoping,” he said.

Gerald Capps, president of Alpine Lake Aviation, is excited about GPS system coming to Douglas.

“It will greatly enhance the safety of using (the Douglas Airport),” he said. “We’re basically getting something for nothing, and that doesn’t happen too often these days.”

He said the GPS system will help airport users to stay on course even with poor visibility, instead of diverting to the Reno-Tahoe Airport.

Douglas is a “visual” only airport requiring a 1,000 foot or higher weather ceiling and at least three miles visibility for landing, he said.

Depending on the airport, similar GPS systems provide for routes that will allow pilots to ascend into clouds that are lower than 1,000 feet and with one to two miles visibility, according to Capps.

But routes specifications for the Douglas Airport are not known yet, Braswell said.

“(The system) won’t help in fog that is all the way to the ground,” Braswell said, “but that doesn’t happen in the Carson

Valley very often.”

He said there will not be any cost to maintain the system, unless the county decides to add land-base navigation. A land-base system would allow for precision landing.

Braswell said the commission’s decision to cut the airport’s budget in half to $62,000 at the Feb. 20 budget meeting could hurt in the future if new revenues are not found with two to three years.

“But in the short run, it’s not devastating,” he said.

He explained that room tax funds from the county are not being used to pay for operating costs.

The county’s money is going to repay a $1.5 million debt from 10-year bonds issued in 1992. The bond money was used to build 34 hangars and incorporated an old bond debt, he said.

The debt service on these bonds is $150,000 each year.

Braswell was not worried about the budget cut, “I think with the growth of the airport in the last year, and the project to get hangars built (the budget) will be pretty much even.”

He said plans to finance the building of 26 hangars by the end of summer depends on going to the commission for approval within the next couple of months.

The planned 41-by-19-foot hangars can house small twin-engine and single-engine planes.

The airport has 54 hangars.

“The commission told us to get involved in economic development,” Braswell said.

The airport leases land for revenue to organizations like the Sierra Front Interagency Fire Dispatch and Air Operations Center, and is counting on more leases, he said.

Other revenues to fund the $350,000 airport budget come from personal property taxes from the 12 businesses that operate out of the airport and private hangars that owners rent, he added.

He said the airport will also need to dip into reserve funds until a transition can be made.

Braswell said the airport advisory board is recommending to the commission that the airport change its name to the Minden-Tahoe Airport.