By Dave Schwab
Airport expansion plans concern local residents
Runway expansion to accommodate larger jets, a proposal in a new master plan for the 456-acre, three-runway Montgomery-Gibbs Airport, is causing consternation among Navajo and Mission Valley residents.
The city owns and operates two general aviation airports, Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport at 3750 John J Montgomery Drive, and Brown Field Municipal Airport at 1424 Continental St.
Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport is a public-use airport owned and operated by the city of San Diego and its Airports Division, a branch of the city’s Real Estate Assets Department, which oversees operations at all city-owned airports.
The city of San Diego’s Airports Division has embarked on a master planning process to define the vision to guide airport development at both airports for the next 20 years.
Steve Nelson, a 19-year Del Cerro resident is worried about transparency with Montgomery-Gibbs in the airport master-planning process.
“It seems this master plan study is proceeding quietly without much community awareness,” Nelson said. “It is proposed to increase the length of the landing runway by 1,176 feet to accommodate larger jets. This change to accommodate jets will be devastating to the surrounding communities.”
Montgomery-Gibbs airfield consists of three paved runways: one 4,577-foot runway with a precision approach; a 3,401-foot parallel runway; and a 3,400-foot crosswind runway.
Nelson believes a longer runway translates into “bigger planes, more noise, more pollution — more everything. Then, if you’ve got commercial airlines coming in … the next thing you know you’ve got a mini-Lindbergh Field. I’d like to see all that get pushed down to Brown Field.”
Another Del Cerro resident, Todd Curry, fears the consequences, particularly from noise, that runway expansion to accommodate jets at Montgomery-Gibbs might have on the already steady stream of arriving flights over Del Cerro coming from the northwest.
“It appears the traffic has been shifted south, and perhaps, to a lower altitude than before,” said Curry who added, “La Jolla has been dealing with both departing flights heading up the coast as well as arriving flights for some time. Now it looks like it is Del Cerro’s turn.”
Curry claims noise over Del Cerro from commercial air flights going into Lindbergh has spiked.
“The noise in Del Cerro from Lindbergh Field approaches increased on or about Sept. 1,” Curry said. “Before then, we heard Montgomery aircraft flying at about 2,500 feet. But now, we have commercial flights flying at about 5,000 feet. There’s now a heavy stream of incoming flights that you can track online.”
Throughout the nation and in the Southern California region, the FAA with its Metroplex project is proposing improving the efficiency of airspace by optimizing aircraft arrival and departure procedures at regional airports. The project may involve changes in aircraft flight paths and altitudes in certain areas. In Southern California airspace, the FAA claims any proposed flight path adjustments would not result in any ground disturbance or increase the number of aircraft operations.
Concerning transparency on the part of the FAA, Curry pointed out that federal agency “is being sued all over the United States because of recent ‘Metroplex’ changes that it falsely claimed beforehand would not cause significant increases in noise, and Phoenix recently won a case against the FAA.”
Additionally, the FAA claims the NextGen modernization work that it is doing nationwide is laying the foundation for future safety and efficiency improvements.
The Airport Master Plan being developed will include a report of existing and future conditions, an Airport Layout Plan and a schedule of priorities and funding sources for proposed improvements in a Working Paper document. That is the first step in the Airport Master Plan for Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport.
The Working Paper summarizes existing airport facilities, air traffic activity and the surrounding airspace environment. The master plan for each of the facilities will establish a long-term plan by determining the extent, type and schedule of development needed.
Montgomery-Gibbs is home to a number of facilities providing an array of aeronautical services including fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, hangar rentals, air charter and medical transport.
The city said it is committed to a transparent, comprehensive and inclusive planning process and is excited to engage the community and stakeholders to garner feedback to develop both Airport Master Plans.
The city received FAA grants of $500,000 each for master planning for both Montgomery and Brown Field airports, and is providing funds from the Airport Enterprise Fund to pay for the studies.
— Dave Schwab is a San Diego-based freelance reporter. Reach him at email@example.com.