A TALE OF TWO CITIES (+ 2)
Out in the wild west where I reside I don’t remember a new airport being built in the 33 years that I have lived here. When most airports were constructed they were out in the boonies. I fly into Colorado Springs (COS) often to visit family. When I started flying to into COS there was nothing in miles of the airport. Today residential and commercial encompass the airport.
COS is one of my + 2 examples for this column, the other being Santa Monica (SMO). SMO was opened 1917 (some say 1919). Needless to say nothing was around SMO for years. As time moved on brilliant City Councils allowed for residential encroachment up to 500 feet from the runway. People who have lived around the airport have pressured the Council not to take any grants from the FAA since 1995. As per Federal law the City can do whatever it wants with the airport after 2015. The FAA states that SMO was to be an airport for perpetuity. I don’t think this argument will win in court. AOPA’s Bill Dunn has made numerous visits to SMO educating pilots and politicos. He feels confident that the airport will remain open after 2015. I hope he’s right as I don’t think there is a chance in hell of this happening. Many in the movie industry keep their jets at SMO, and I have not seen them get involved in trying to keep the airport open. This was the second of my + 2 examples.
Now onto the tale of two cities, Phoenix and Scottsdale. Phoenix owns the world’s busiest general aviation (GA) airport, Phoenix Deer Valley (DVT), which is predominantely piston traffic. Scottsdale owns one of the busiest one runway airports in the country (SDL) with mostly jet traffic. When these two airports were built they were both in the boonies. DVT wasn't easily accessible until 8 years ago when a circumference freeway was completed which has 2 exits for DVT.
Residential encroachment is the number one killer of airports, and residential encroachment can lead to restrictions of airports. Phoenix and Scottsdale took a different path to protect their airport from residential encroachment. Six years ago a developer wanted to build 1500 condos just north of the runway environment at DVT. DVT had a very strong pilots association, and I was the AOPA ASN at DVT. Ed Chauza, President of Deer Valley Pilots Association (DVPA) and I met individually with City Council members and Airport staff. When it came time for this issue to appear before Phoenix City Council there were over 100 members of DVPA in attendance to speak against the issue. The Council voted down the request for the condos. Phoenix realized how important DVT was to the City and decided to put a zoning overlay in place. As it stands now no residential can be built in the area of DVT.
The City of Scottsdale took a different approach and did a Part 150 study with the FAA that was completed in 2006. The Part 150 is not a binding contract it is more of a pact. The juxtaposition of the Part 150 was that zoning would stay the same in areas defined by the study, meaning that areas around the airport would remain light industrial and commercial with no residential. The City Council voted 5-2 to reaffirm this in October 2010. In 2011 a new Council is in place. The new members are pro-development and supported financially directly and indirectly by developers. A new 10 year general plan was to be adopted by the City in November, 2011. Out of nowhere 3 apartment complexes were on the Council agenda in the airport environment. The Council members stated that people who reside in apartments don’t complain about noise and can move anytime they want to. 2 out of 3 complexes were approved. They are right under the arrival flight paths of helicopters arriving from the north.
One airport Commissioner filed an official complaint with the FAA. He was fired by the Council. The FAA responded with one of the strongest written responses I have ever seen from a regional level of the FAA. Scottsdale’s timing really stinks. The FAA is pushing to require SDL to move their main taxiway, A, so the hold bars will be 200 feet. There isn’t any room to go to the recommended 250 feet. If this is not accomplished the FAA is going to restrict D2 and D3 aircraft at SDL. This would include the GIV, V/550, 650 and Globals.
An Environmental Assessment (EA) is in the study phase at the FAA to allow 100,000 pound planes to depart SDL on a permanent basis. SDL opened a customs office when they received the prior permission (PPR) for these planes to depart SDL full, and it has been very successful. In 2015 the Super Bowl is returning to the Valley. Will there be restrictions on SDL. Restrictions would hinder future economic boons like the one experienced at the last Super Bowl in Phoenix.
SDL is also self sufficient. Since 2000 not a dime of Scottsdale tax money goes to support the airport. Last summer the FAA made an example of the previous SDL aviation administration. The runway was in desperate need of repair which would cost 1.5 million. The FAA told Scottsdale to repair the runway themselves or close down the airport. The City paid the $1.5M out of airport reserves. This could happen again.
Phoenix was smart in protecting the airport from future City Councils where Scottsdale is not protecting it’s airport from future Councils. Only time will tell the outcome.
THIS AND THAT
I flew to Safford, AZ (SAD) to take a friend to check on the progress of painting his 425. In January I wrote on how restrictive the airspace is around Phoenix. I used my IPad with Foreflight to study the airspace and terrain. I mapped out a route that would keep me out of the Bravo, terrain and 2 MOA’s. TRACON would not give me approval to climb in the Class B to 7500 feet. The Bravo was 7000 to 9000 in the area I chose. I stayed at 6500 until out of the Bravo and climbed to 7500 which kept me below the Outlaw MOA. I then flew to San Carlos airport and direct SAD to avoid another MOA. Coming home I was going to have to fly at 7000 to stay under the Outlaw MOA and avoid terrain. The MOA was cold and I climbed to 8500. TRACON would not give me the easy decent I wanted so I had to descend to 6500 to get below the Bravo. This was very easy using Foreflight. My situational awareness was great, and the trip was well planned. It would have been a very difficult flight without the IPad. My subscription to Foreflight expires the end of February, and I will be switching to WingXPro7 with Sky Radar ADS-B in for weather and dropping my XM subscription.
Arthur Rosen is a retired Judge living in Scottsdale, AZ. Arthur is AOPA-ASN for Scottsdale Airport (SDL), was Chairman of the Scottsdale Aviation Commission, served on the Super Bowl Committee for Aviation, past President of Arizona Soaring Association and Aviation Expert for ABC TV-Phoenix. Arthur can be reached at Judge613@gmail.com, followed on Twitter at Judge613 and his