Reasons to vote ‘no’ on the airport ordinance |

Reasons to vote ‘no’ on the airport ordinance

by Jon Hannan

We have a choice to make. Do you want to vote “yes” for the proposed use ordinance that seemingly does away with the squabble about the maximum takeoff gross weight at our airport: Or, do you want to vote “no” and continue with more of the same non-enforcement of the citizens’ initiative passed back in 1984 necessitated to forestall the onslaught of 140,000-pound airplanes? But a “no” vote would give us a chance to get a more reasonable ordinance in the next election.

The new use ordinance promises to control growth with infrastructure control. Unfortunately, it is a bit late for that considering what has already been allowed. There is a major lease of 87 acres poised to construct hangars for large airplanes. The lease owners are waiting for the county to get rid of the weight-based ordinance and to degrade or eliminate the gliders that pose a safety threat.

The use ordinance eliminates the weight based ordinance and simply says that a “yes” vote will result in posting of accurate weight limits based on pavement studies, creating new limitations on airport use. The major problem here is the county/NDOT has submitted two pavement reports to the FAA and they were accepted, but not verified. Despite what Terry Lalonde says this is not a simple problem, so follow the rest very closely.

It is common knowledge that pavement overlays do not substantially increase the bearing strength of pavement. The Nevada Department of Transportation commissioned a series of pavement studies for the airports in Nevada to serve as baseline to qualify for FAA money to improve Nevada airports. The 2002 Pavement Report concluded “Operations of an aircraft in the 60,000-pound and 75,000-pound classes, if restricted from a few areas should not have a significant impact on pavement performance either.” This means the taxiways are not as strong as the long runway. When the FAA finally got around to reading the report they noted these weights were well above our limits specified in our ordinance. The FAA sent us the first letter stating this noncompliance on Aug. 16, 2004.

Here we are six years later and we are still in noncompliance but the FAA is losing patience and is starting to withhold AIP funding. The county’s choice to clear the noncompliance is to pass a new use ordinance without a maximum weight limit. If this happens the FAA interface documents will be raised to the 60,000/75,000 pounds to clear the noncompliance. However, there was another pavement study in 2005 following a 4-inch pavement overlay that the FAA may not have read yet. This latest study concludes that the long runway can tolerate single wheel main landing gear airplanes up to 70,000 pounds and airplanes with dual wheels up to 110,000 pounds. But it went on to say “All of the taxiway sections showed some degree of structural deficiency ranging from minor to significant.”

You see, the county has already and intentionally raised the runway bearing strength without your approval and is now attempting to slip in a new ordinance that makes it legal and ties the strength of the taxiway/ramps to the runway strength.

Currently, the limiting factor at our airport is the taxiways but the use ordinance further states that the taxiways and ramps can be strengthened to match the runway without your approval. That will require a multitude of millions of dollars to complete using federal AIP funds and putting the county and your money as collateral. The money aspects will discussed by Jack Van Dien in another letter to the editor.

Make no mistake about this, you must vote no on this ordinance or you are signing up for a major expansion of our rural airport and probably the death of soaring in our Valley.

Jon Hannan is a Minden glider pilot and retired FAA test pilot.