Scare tactics being used to stop planning |

Scare tactics being used to stop planning

by Bill Schroeder

I would like to make some comments regarding the debate concerning the development of the master plan for the Minden-Tahoe Airport. It has come to the point where it appears that a particular group of individuals is attempting to convince the public that somehow the airport is going to become another air carrier airport, even though the Reno-Tahoe Airport is so far from its potential capacity that it is continuously reaching out for additional air carrier flights.

The Carson Valley’s population and even its projected population will never be a draw for major or regional air carriers looking to fill every seat on their aircraft. Reno-Tahoe International Airport is only 30 miles away and with the completion of the freeway, it will take approximately 30 to 40 minutes to get there from anywhere in Douglas County.

These individuals, who are attempting to convince you that we will have a Minden-Tahoe International Airport if this master plan is adopted, have told you and the press that you can expect to see 355,000 operations a year at our airport. Let me put that in perspective. John F. Kennedy Airport in New York had 363,000 operations last year. San Francisco International Airport had 354,000 operations last year. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport had approximately 145,200 operations last year.

Please keep in mind that JFK and SF International are each located within a population area of close to 10 million people.

It is puzzling to me how these individuals can claim that those numbers will come about at the Minden-Tahoe Airport with the planned addition of two sod runways for sailplane use only. I cannot understand the logic behind their claim or how anyone could possibly believe their claim. Every Fortune 500 company in the country would have to set up in the Carson Valley and bring every private aircraft they own into the county to meet those operations figures. In addition, the available land in Douglas County could not hold the population necessary to support that number of aircraft operations at the airport. Two sod runways for sailplanes? Scare tactics are being used on you to stop the progress of the master planning process.

The master plan consultants and the master plan working group are currently in the process of developing a plan for the airport that will “guide” the airport for the next 20 years. In doing so, the consultants, experts in the field of developing airport master plans, have presented ideas and future plans to the working group, the public and county management.

Recently I have heard, from this group of individuals, that airport management is developing the east side of the airport against the wishes of the public and the soaring community. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of the east side is a cornerstone of the 1993 Airport Master Plan that was approved by the County Commissioners in October of that year and is still in effect until a new master plan is adopted.

Let me quote from the 1993 Master Plan, a plan that was developed by many who were in the soaring community at that time.

“Development of sailplane facilities on the east side of the Airport is essential if Douglas County Airport is to accommodate growth of both sailplane and other aircraft operations. Following a review of runway and building area options, the central section of the closed Runway (Runway 21) and Runway 12-30-has been designated as the site for sailplane facilities. It is intended that the area would supply all of the needs of soaring, including: fixed base operators, storage hangers, and event facilities. The available building area is approximately three times the existing building area on the west side.”

The master plan that is currently being developed is doing nothing more than continuing to show the need that was identified in 1993. And that need was based upon safety – a separation of powered aircraft from non-powered aircraft and their associated needs.

The 1993 Master Plan also stated that, “If aircraft operations increase as forecast, another runway will be needed to accommodate sailplane launches during calm wind conditions. Runway 16L-34R is located to permit simultaneous operations on it and the main runway during VFR conditions. Runway 16L-34R would be used exclusively for sailplane launches.”

The master plan currently being developed shows a need for an additional runway for soaring. This is not a new idea meant to attract more operations, but an observation of a need made some fifteen years ago by soaring enthusiasts involved in the master planning process who believed that the additional runway was needed to benefit soaring. And, after all, isn’t that what we want to do?

Throughout the 1993 Master Plan, the emphasis is on developing a “high quality sailplane facility on the east side of the airport.” Again, the management of the airport is following the guidelines set forth in the Master Plan.

The population of Douglas County at the time the 1993 Master Plan was adopted was 32,130. In 2005 the population had grown to 50,108. With the growth of the county, comes growth in other sectors such as the retail sector, service sector, public sector and the airport. It is not unreasonable to believe that some of the individuals who have moved into Douglas County are pilots and pilots who own their own aircraft and base those aircraft at the Minden-Tahoe Airport.

The current master plan takes growth into account. And the growth projected by the master plan consultants is really very minimal. For instance, in 1991, the figures used for the 1993 Master Plan, the airport had an estimated total number of 76,000 operations.

Currently the Minden-Tahoe Airport has an estimated 79,800 operations per year.

That is a growth of 3,800 operations in 16 years. The number of operations projected through the twenty year master plan (2027) being developed is approximately 89,000. This figure has been looked at by the FAA and has been approved as a viable figure for the Minden-Tahoe Airport. As the population of the county increases so will the demand for services. Airport volume will increase to meet the needs of the citizens.

Keep in mind that this is a 20-year plan – a plan that will come about if funds are available to carry it out. Not every item in the plan will come to be as priorities will surely change during the next twenty years. And the elements of the plan will definitely not take place all at once as some individuals would like us to believe.

The Minden-Tahoe Airport is a viable part of the community. The University of Nevada Bureau of Business and Economic Research stated that, “For the airport to continue growing and supporting the Minden-Tahoe area businesses, as well as soaring enthusiasts, the economic impacts of all activities should be taken into account when making any future development decisions.” The report concludes that the airport contributes $46,711,462.00 to the local economy.

The Minden-Tahoe Airport is a very viable entity. I want to keep it as a community airport, but I also want it to continue to contribute to the local economy.

Do not listen to those who wish to scare you into believing that the airport is somehow going to become a Reno-Tahoe International Airport clone, or a Centennial, Colorado Airport, as some of those individuals has previously stated in public meetings. The present population and the future projected populations do not even come close to supporting that claim.

These individuals claim to represent you and are telling you and the county commissioners that they support the will of the people when it comes to the 1984 Runway Weight Ordinance. However, they then turn around and tell you not to support the will of the people regarding the county approved 1993 Airport Master Plan. They want to have it both ways.

n Bill Schroeder is chairman of the Minden-Tahoe Airport Advisory Committee and a member of the Master Plan Work Group.