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Trinity County

by George Loegering rev 03/21/03

We all have our likes and dislikes. We have built-in defense mechanisms to avoid what we don't want to do. We rationalize those things that we want to do. Sometimes in our busy lives we are made aware and turned on to something that is really good, we do that which we normally would not have done. This makes us feel good, like a hero, because our input made a real positive difference. Did you know that many rural airports are in danger of closing? These are airports that typically have never had any business operation or have a struggling or closed FBO; in some cases there are few permanently based aircraft and little regular flight activity. Many have been lost in the past ten years; there are local examples in Modoc, Shasta and Trinity Counties. Others in Humboldt, Lake and Siskiyou have been affected but temporally fixed, all these strips are irreplaceable based upon the difficulty and costs now required to build a new airport. Because of this, a cavalier attitude of sink or swim on your own merit, is not an option. The loss of any airport will only be realized in the future. Airport users owe the youth of tomorrow our concern and action today.

Airports require maintenance and insurance. Some of our rural airports are part of the National Transportation System and are nominally funded by a $10,000 annual state grant. This pays for most everything except major items such as repaving or adjacent land acquisition for clear areas. The FAA and state governments can provide up to 94.5% of the money required for major airport improvements and safety issues. The airport owners (city/county) provide the remaining 5.5%. In the case of Forest Service strips the Feds do all the maintenance. But the above actions are not automatic nor magical or even considered important by some of those responsible for this infrastructure. There have been several cases where the responsible government official was simply anti-airport oriented and did nothing constructive to keep the airport operational; sometimes money granted for airport improvements was withheld or redirected to other purposes.

Risk managers consider airports a liability. Some vocal local citizens even for remote strips consider them a nuisance. Developers or local landowners can privatize public use strips and then be extremely selective as to who is permitted to use the facility. There have been several cases in recent years where adjacent trees grew into the airport clear zone required by airport design standards (CALTRANS Department Aeronautics is responsible for making sure that public use airports meet license specifications). Sometimes the trees are on private or federal lands and cutting/trimming takes so long that the airport is temporarily or permanently closed. This would not happen if the local users were monitoring the situation with the airport authorities.

The California Pilots Association (CPA) has a volunteer network starting with local airport representatives, area directors (who coordinate the reps at several adjacent airports) and regional VP's and Director's to coordinate, exchange ideas and develop procedures with the other (four total) regions in the State to deal with common issues. When reps are in place they are very effective in recognizing airport problems before it is too late. The system of local airport reps as developed by CPA was adopted by AOPA as their airport support network (ASN). CPA is more familiar with local issues and by means of local chapters able to generate greater pressure to address issues and help to resolve problems. CPA has volunteer lawyers who are familiar with aviation law who can assist in filing suits if necessary. They have literally written the state airport land use regulations and give seminars to airport managers and county planning personnel. There is a CPA PAC and a lobbyist is sometimes hired for various elections and important state legislation. CPA provides incorporation documents for association chapters at no cost except the state filing fees. These chapter organizations may be used for a specific airport or group of smaller airports. The chapter provides an organizational structure so that all users or supporters can participate with those directly involved with preserving and enhancing the local facilities. Membership in local chapters is important in any democratic society because while one voice can be the "squeaky wheel" numbers are what count to get action. Even if you are busy and feel you simply don't want to get involved you should at least participate with a paid membership to CPA and your local CPA chapter. Your name on our membership lists and your dues, which are used to disseminate information, are extremely useful in preserving your airport and the airports in California. Won't you be your airports hero?