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No weight limit in new airport

by Jon Hannan

If you agree that the use ordinance will expose us to unwanted and massive growth at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, what do we do if we get it voted down? There are some alternatives but the growth elements in the county are dead set against them. So, if you agree with the alternative that is presented here you must tell the county manager that you agree with this approach and you must also make the case with the county commissioners. The county commissioners are being misled and we must offer them a more reasonable solution.

An independent civil engineer, with impressive credentials, has reviewed the two pavement studies performed by NDOT and the county (2002 and 2005). He has shown that the FAA Advisory Circulars were not followed properly and the conclusions about what the pavement can support are grossly inflated.

The FAA engineer reviewing the three reports, at my request, agreed with the evaluation report and said he would call the airport manager and advise him the two pavement reports were flawed. He called our airport manager and advised him that another full study of airport pavements should be done and the FAA would provide the funding, if requested.



Because of all of the protracted confusion over the noncompliance issues, the FAA, at the regional level, has decided to wait for the outcome of the ballot issue before defining their course of action in writing.

My suggestion is to comply with the FAA’s telephone call. The county must write the FAA a letter retracting the two pavement capacity reports, admitting they were flawed. The county must then assure the FAA it will request funding for another full pavement capacity study. Explain that the county has decided to stay with the 50,000-pound dual wheel loading that was used to design the original airport pavements until a current and accurate pavement study is completed.



A balanced 2012 ballot measure should contain an option to stay with the limiting values determined by a new and thorough pavement study by an engineering firm specializing in this discipline. The county management option could be to strengthen the parallel taxiway to a somewhat higher value. If the value is too high the people will not approve the measure.

The county may have exceeded its authority by strengthening the runway before getting voter approval but the taxpayers should not be held captive to their decision by passing the use ordinance, post approval of a massive increase. The voters of this county must decide the final answer, not the county, it’s our airport. Defeating the use ordinance and proceeding with a balanced plan will allow us to control the growth at the Airport.

The FAA does not have definitive guidance on weight based ordinances as their proposed policy, published in the Federal Register, was not adopted. Therefore, they stand with the requirement that any weight-based ordinance must be reasonable. By reasonable, they mean the ordinance cannot be discriminatory, as based upon the findings of a valid pavement capacity study, to prevent any airplane from using the airfield, improved using government funds, if the pavement can handle the airplane’s weight.

Getting the county to take action on this alternative should be our goal after we defeat the new use ordinance. Action is required so get involved. The elected county officials should be contacted and made aware of your feelings and desires. This alternative offers the county citizens a clear choice and direction for the next election cycle and allows time to prepare a proper ordinance. The proposed use ordinance, with its deceptive wording, gives the county administrators the ability to increase the size and numbers of airplanes using the airport without voter approval or oversight.

This decision bears heavily on the future of soaring at Minden. Soaring will not survive unless a parallel runway is constructed to separate the high speed traffic from the glider traffic. There is not enough AIP/County money to support both projects (strengthening the entire field to a capacity of 110,000 pounds and develop the east side for soaring).

Soaring is a major contributor to the economic viability of Douglas County but if the airport is developed to 110,000 pounds it is all for naught. It’s your choice.

Jon E Hannan is a retired test pilot based at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. He served with the panel opposing the airport ordinance.