COMMUNITY OF FLYING
We have quite a few new programs lined up for 2017. For this article, I would like to tell you about the new way we plan to handle block rates on our rental fleet.
The current block rate system is quite cumbersome, so we have been looking for ways to simplify the process and to make it a win for members, a win for the owners, and a win for the club in terms of administration overhead. So here it is…
Owners will still choose to offer block rates, generally for 10-hour blocks, to be used in a 90-day time period. This doesn’t change from the current method.
Renting members will no longer have to pre-pay for a block rate. This is a significant change from the way things work now. It saves the member the big chunk of money required to initiate a block rate. Initially each flight will be billed at the “regular” rate. Then after 10 hours of flying a plane (within the past 90 days) that offers a block rate, the member will send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting a block rate “rebate”. The rebate will be the difference between the regular rate and block rate, times ten (for a 10-hour block). The rebate will be applied to the member’s account, funded from the owner’s account.
This is also a win for the owners as well. The block rate will only be issued after the block is completed. Today, if a block isn’t finished, the owner subsidizes the first few hours but if the member stops flying that aircraft, the block funds simply get used up elsewhere because the block isn’t dedicated to that particular plane.
From a club perspective, there should be a significant reduction in administration. The staff will no longer need to correct block rates after the fact like when a member forgets to write “BLOCK” in the key book, or have to reach out to members when their block rate has run out and doesn’t qualify. Now the MST will simply have to bring up the member’s flight record for the past 90 days, verify the hours flown meet the requirements and issue the rebate. This is probably just a couple of minutes of work.
Like any new process or program, there are sure to be some bumps in the road and we look forward to working out the kinks and making this new program another great benefit for the membership.
FROM THE DESK OF THE SAFETY OFFICE
Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC email@example.com
Making the Go-Around Decision
A few years ago, I was conducting a flight review for a fellow CFI in a Cirrus. As an instructor in Cirrus airplanes he was very proficient and the review was mostly uneventful, with the exception of a landing attempt that resulted in a go-around. What made this noteworthy was not that he came in slightly high and fast, but that his decision to go-around was made when we were still at about 100 feet AGL and a quarter mile short of the runway. We had drifted only about 15 feet high and 5 knots too fast, and a pilot with his experience and proficiency most likely could have salvaged it if he had wanted to. However, his decision to go-around was the correct one and at the correct time, and it was noteworthy because of how rarely most pilots make that decision in similar circumstances.
If you read anything at all about aviation, chances are good you’ve heard of the stabilized approach concept, which calls for an immediate go-around if certain parameters aren’t met during an approach to landing. The definition of those parameters varies depending on the type of airplane being flown, but any definition includes being configured for landing, at the correct speed, and on glide-path by a certain point of the approach. If any of these conditions are not met or are deviated from past this point, then the pilot should execute a go-around immediately. Continuing the approach to try and “fix” it, and going around at the last minute if unsuccessful is not consistent with the stabilized approach concept. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens more often than not when an approach becomes unstable.
Why is this so important? Because general aviation accidents continue to be far more likely to occur during landing than any other phase of flight. This correlation was identified long ago, but the aviation industry has struggled to improve this statistic. The stabilized approach concept isn’t anything new, its been standard procedure at virtually all commercial operators and has been actively encouraged in general aviation for years. Unfortunately, pilots at all levels have failed miserably at following this standard. It wasn’t until airlines began actively disciplining pilots for failing to go-around that compliance rates began to improve.
One of the main reasons why pilots struggle to follow this very simple and sensible guidance is psychological. An approach that results in a go-around is often viewed negatively by one’s self and others. It implies that the pilot misjudged something, and the go-around decision is a decision to accept that failure. It is also human nature to attempt to correct a problem before admitting defeat, the “problem” being that something has caused the approach to be unstable and the “correction” being the attempt to continue the landing. Even when it’s painfully obvious that a go-around will be required, pilots tend to delay the decision until the last possible minute, with the rationalization that there’s little risk in doing so. Occasionally the decision is delayed too long or not made at all, often with disastrous results.
Embracing the stabilized approach concept requires redefining success and failure when landing. When the approach becomes unstable beyond the predefined decision-point (the problem), an immediate go-around should be executed (the correction). Deciding to continue comes with no other benefit than a few minutes of your time and an undamaged ego. Hopefully we can all agree that this benefit pales in comparison to the risk of an accident that it comes with. Immediately executing a go-around when an approach becomes unstable should be viewed as a successful outcome and a prudent safety decision.
If this is a difficult concept to accept, consider the following: A sloppy approach and a barely acceptable landing won’t impress anyone. If anything, it will raise questions about the proficiency and judgment of the pilot. Giving yourself another opportunity to make a good approach and landing is the right decision. It can be a difficult decision to make at first, but like most things, it will get much easier once you get used to it. If you find yourself needing a little help making this choice, just remember that it comes with the added benefit of impressing whoever may be watching.
Taking Good Care of Our Planes
WVFC is a flying club, not just an airplane rental agency. As a club member you have an obligation to do your best to protect the club planes that you are flying. This means not only flying safely, but caring for the planes as if they belonged to you (or better). I think that you all know that, with one exception, all of the planes in the fleet are owned by individuals. These individuals pay for the maintenance on the planes, the insurance, the tie downs, and the fuel and oil that you use during a flight. Airplanes are not cheap, either to purchase or to maintain, whether they are new or old, and owners would rather not pay excessive maintenance or repair charges because club members aren’t being careful with the planes. While most members are careful with the planes, it only takes one who isn’t careful to cause damage, and aircraft maintenance isn’t cheap. The club tries hard to provide you with aircraft that are in good physical and mechanical shape. If you want to fly planes that are in good condition, you need to help keep them that way. That includes not only flying safely, but also cleaning up your trash in the plane, putting the cover back on, and securely tying down the plane after you fly it.
No one sets out to intentionally cause damage to a plane. Mostly it is caused by members who are not aware that their actions can cause damage. But when planes are damaged, owners can end up with big bills that makes plane ownership unattractive and then they may take their planes off of the flight line or, at least, raise rental prices. Not just the owner, but a member who caused damage may also be charged for that. Many members have no idea of the costs for repairing some of the damage inadvertently caused by not paying attention to being careful. Replacing a tire that has been flat-spotted by heavy braking runs about $400, repainting a wing that has been scratched by pulling a flight case off of it runs about $1000, replacing the engine mount because of heavy braking resulting in repeated nose wheel shimmy more than $7000.
So here are some things that you might want to think about when you fly so that you can avoid causing inadvertent damage to the planes:
1. Please don’t put anything on the horizontal surfaces of the plane, with the exception of the black wing-walk. This includes luggage, flight cases, headsets, and clothing items.
2. Please don’t put items on the glare shield. This includes headsets, aircraft books, or anything else that could possibly scratch the windshield.
3. Please do not move the rudders on the Pipers back and forth during your pre-flight. The sign NO PUSH is there because the rudder on the Pipers is attached to the nose wheel and repeated pushing, or pulling, will crack the thin skin of the rudder. Re-skinning and painting the rudder runs about $4000.
4. Please do not try to turn off on a midfield taxiway if you have landed long or are going too fast to do so without braking heavily, even if the tower says “please expedite.” Heavy braking can lock up the tires, resulting in flat-spotting and nose wheel shimmy and that, as we have discussed, can result in expensive repairs. Apply a little back pressure on the yoke to get some aerodynamic braking and let the plane roll-out. It is much less expensive to continue to the end of the runway rather than flat-spotting a tire. If you do manage to flat-spot a tire, please tell us so that we can change the tire and avoid a more serious problem. And remember that checking the tires should be part of your pre-flight to ensure, not only that the tires are safe for flight, but that you don’t get charged for damage that you didn’t cause.
5. When you re-park the plane, try to park it so that the nose is at least a foot back of the line marking the edge of the taxiway. There is no penalty for parking a little further away from the line, and it offers a little more protection from taxiing planes.
6. After your flight, please make sure that the plane is securely tied down and that the covers are put back on and the doors locked. Winter is coming and the winds are going to be picking up. A secure tie-down means more than just throwing the rope over itself, it means that the knot you use will not slip and will firmly hold the plane in place. The WVFC “club knot” is the best to use.
Hopefully, you will keep these things in mind when you fly, and we can keep the fleet in good condition, while keeping maintenance costs down.
Thanks, and Happy Flying,
Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor firstname.lastname@example.org
Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde
The many people that have flown with me at West Valley or elsewhere, and the people that have worked with or for me in my various professional incarnations think of me (I believe) as a relaxed (mellow, to use a 60s term), very patient guy rarely getting flustered regardless of the amount or variety of spaghetti that happens to get into the fan. Most would be as surprised as I was to find that there is a monster hidden inside. This article describes how I discovered Mr. Hyde, what happened, and how I SHOULD have dealt with it. The number of other people that have similar monsters could be anywhere from no one else, to everyone else – and YOU could be one of those people. The answer is probably somewhere in between, and for those of you that have that monster, but haven’t met it yet, I offer the advice that a smart person learns from his own mistakes, a wise one learns from someone else’s.
This occurred during my annual three-day Pilatus recurrent training at SimCom. As often happened, I was at the recurrent training with a group of friends, all of whom I greatly respect, both as pilots, and as people. And, despite the fact that there is a lot of repeatability from one recurrent to the next, I always look forward to the training – you get to do things that you either CAN’T, or don’t WANT to do in an airplane. I’ve actually experienced some of those problems in the real world, and know the value of the training.
In a seemingly unrelated thought, as you may know, through my church, I work with people that are going through the bad stuff that happens to all of us at one time or another - loss of a job, death of a family member, divorce, health issues, and so on. It is a one-on-one confidential ministry, in which we provide a care receiver on-going support during times of crisis. Normally I wouldn’t be able to discuss anything about my care receiver or his situation without having received approval, which I now have.
The evening before our first classes at SimCom, a care receiver I'd been working with for over 6 months called me complaining about his situation (which didn’t seem to be getting any better) and saying that he was considering suicide. Despite the immediate actions I took which were successful in keeping him safe, I flunked the IM SAFE check for flying as my stress level went off the scale for the next couple of days. If I had been scheduled to fly an airplane the next day I would not have done so any more than I would fly while under the influence of alcohol, but would have called my student or client to postpone the lesson or flight, or called in another qualified pilot to cover for me. However, because the training was already scheduled, because I was already there, and because it was "only a simulator" I chose not to mention the problem (since I couldn't talk about it) and proceed with the training. I also attempted to act like my normal self, though I’m sure my training buddies noticed that I was different.
Simulator training is a very stylized series of events that require the trainee to perform to the training standards in a series of scripted scenarios varying from hot starts to engine failures at various altitudes and a variety of equipment and avionics malfunctions combined with a variety of different visibilities, ceilings, temperatures, altitudes, winds, approaches, and airports.
When my turn came up on the first day, I put my phone in “airplane mode”, cutting me off from my care receiver’s text messages, which in turn started me thinking about what might be happening with him. The fact that I had trouble with the landing is probably not an unrelated event. Now, landings in a simulator lack the peripheral vision of the real world, and even the better sims present the takeoff roll and the landing roll more like the plane is on ice than on a runway – I’ve been in initial and recurrent over 20 times, so I know. Yet for the first time, I bitched about it. In previous years, I’ve gone around or just had fun sliding along sideways on the “ice”, but the frustration of things not working the way they should combined with the stress resulted in an action that is the reason we do the “stress” check that’s part of the IM SAFE checklist
That evening things hadn’t improved for my care receiver, and I spent a bit of time on the phone with him, mostly sick that he was just agreeing with me verbally, with no intention of actually taking care of himself.
The next day I committed one of the most irresponsible acts of my flying career – I got into a loud and angry (on my part) argument with our ground instructor. Our instructor and the expert he called in to help were both as professional as I should have been (and always had been in the past) when discussing differing opinions regarding various techniques of flight. I look back on it and wonder how a potentially interesting and enlightening discussion became something else, and where the monster came from. And I am deeply embarrassed at how I treated a pair of professionals that didn’t deserve that from me (or from anyone).
But I wasn’t done yet. Nope, I was in a hole, and just wouldn’t stop digging despite having already hit a gas pipe. Even though we all are qualified to fly the Pilatus single-pilot, we always train as a crew because we fly that way in this Pilatus. I even go out of my way to take people along in the right seat when I’m flying otherwise empty legs. The Pilatus and the jets I fly are really easy airplanes to fly when everything is fine, but when the first domino starts falling, whether it’s a mechanical or avionics problem, or a last second change on ATC’s part, it’s REALLY nice to have someone else along if only to read a checklist or operate a radio. On the final day of training, I was so focused on my care receiver’s issues, that I tried to do everything myself, cutting out the otherwise very valuable assistance of the guy I was training with. Perhaps because there was so much going on in my life that I had no control over that I felt the need to control what I COULD control. I’m not completely sure, as I’m still thinking things over, but that seems right. Thankfully, my flying bud pointed out (more politely than was warranted) that if I was going to do everything, he had better things to do than sit and watch me. He didn’t finish the thought out loud, which might have included, “…make a donkey of yourself” which I totally deserved.
And to top things off, I got furious that a simple thing like the seat wouldn’t stay in its notch, and no matter how I set and tested it, it would drop back at an inconvenient time – Murphy’s Law in action. I even said some profane words instead of treating it as just another “system failure” scenario to be dealt with. Thankfully, we completed the training before I did anything ELSE inappropriate or stupid.
So, here’s what I learned:
First, my use of the IM SAFE checklist would have kept any of this from happening in an airplane. I just hadn’t realized how directly the checklist applied to me, or the risk I would run if I ever violated the IM SAFE checklist, or that problems would surface even in a simulator.
Second, my flying bud said that I was totally professional while I was acting as the non-flying pilot, reading checklists, verifying frequencies, handling radios, monitoring approaches and calling out altitudes – if you lower the stress level, things get better.
Third, I now know that I have a monster inside me, and that I can become a different person. The good news is that I know what triggers the monster. Granted there is a single data point, but since I’ve had any number of flying-related stressful occurrences, anomalies, and emergencies (both real-world and simulated) without the hysterics, I think we can conclude that it’s the combination of flight-related stress layered on top of non-flight stress.
Fourth, after some thought, I know how I SHOULD have handled the entire situation. I should have told my training buddies that I had a critical situation with my care receiver (which wouldn’t have revealed any confidences), and told them that it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to fly a plane, or even get into a stressful training situation, and that I should probably either go back to the Bay Area, or just run errands or fix meals. Flying, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, is a team sport – I should have pulled in the rest of the team and let them know what was going on. One of the problems with being pegged at the “introvert” end of the social scale is that pulling other people in and having a personal conversation like that is not the first thought that occurs to me – even when it should be.
Bottom Line: You may or may not have a monster inside you. Yours may or may not have the same trigger as mine. Regardless, training in a simulator MAY help you find that monster. As I know from personal experience, meeting your monster for the first time is a lot better in a simulator than in an airplane – regardless of how embarrassing and humbling it is.
PILOT DECISION MAKING
Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI LindellWilson@PilotNow.com
Decision Making – Finding Best Glide
How many pilots practice finding best glide attitude and speed? If your answer is, only for a flight review or test, consider reading this article.
The best glide is generally the speed where Lift/Drag ratio is maximized, resulting in the best forward distance for altitude lost. The Airplane Flight Manual (AFM after March 1979) includes several graphs or tables illustrating the best glide speed at different aircraft weights and configurations. The best glide is actually a function of Angle of Attack (AoA), but our light aircraft do not have an AoA indicator, so we use airspeed as a substitute.
What is the best technique to quickly get the airplane to the best glide speed? The key is to establish and hold the right aircraft attitude!
Military pilots learn early in their training (especially in fighters) if the engine fails, PITCH immediately down to a pilot memorized visual (out the window) attitude which approximates the best glide attitude. GA pilots can use this same technique to immediate establish a best glide attitude if necessary. This technique is particularly useful when quick-reaction time is required for example, power loss immediately after takeoff during climb-out. In normal cruise flight, the pilot may choose initially to pitch up to reduce airspeed and momentarily gain altitude as the aircraft trades kinetic energy (airspeed) for increased altitude. The Reno air racers have mastered this technique. The pilot then establishes the memorized best glide attitude.
On your next flight, find and memorize the best glide attitude for your aircraft.
WOW – Women of West Valley Flying Club
After a brief stop at Yolo County (KDWA) to drop off a
passenger to pick up her airplane, we arrived at our destination of Chico
(KCIC). The restaurant - The Foodie Cafe was a pleasant surprise, with
great food, friendly staff, and a funky atmosphere. It was a 10 minute
leisurely walk from the airport and worth it.
December - Watts-Woodland
January – Whale Watching
(Dates and locations subject to change. Contact Sue Ballew for further information: email@example.com)
Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC firstname.lastname@example.org
My wife and I decided to take our little ones, 2 1/2 and 4 1/2-year-old boys, to Disneyland for the first time this fall. A trip to the LA Basin is just about perfect for general aviation. Most club planes can get there on one tank of gas. With a Cherokee or 172, it can actually be less expensive than flying commercial, and of course the standard benefits of convenience and fun.
When planning for the trip, one of the first considerations was the destination airport. The two choices were John Wayne/Orange County and Fullerton. Since we wouldn't need a car while at Disney, we thought we could take one of the shuttles from John Wayne. However, the logistics of getting from the GA terminal to the shuttle stop and the vagaries of GA scheduling made that a no-go. With the shuttle option out of the way, Fullerton won out due to its proximity to Anaheim and good (and well-deserved) reviews of its FBO, General Aviation Co.
We decided to head down on Saturday morning, spend an afternoon at the hotel pool and the Disney Downtown, and then head to the park for most of the day Sunday. We would then depart Fullerton shortly before sunset to get over the mountains surrounding LA before sunset, then fly the rest of the trip at night.
Well, this time of year the weather conspired to make the flying portion of the trip interesting. The kids being at Disney for the first time, of course, made the rest of the trip interesting in a positive sense. Since it's getting toward the winter, I was prepared for the departure from San Carlos to be an instrument departure through the usual coastal stratus. The day dawned with a bit of unsettled weather down all the way to LA, with a low-pressure system sitting off the northwest coast of California. There was no forecast of significant precipitation, but clouds at levels from 3000 to 7000 feet were forecast all the way to LA. That being the case, my main concern became the freezing level and icing potential. Fortunately, the freezing level was predicted to be above 10,000 feet and there was no potential icing forecast. So, after a thorough weather briefing and some disappointing winds aloft forecasts, we took off.
We were in the clouds off of San Carlos from about 3000 feet to 4000 feet. Leaving the Bay Area, we enjoyed clear skies above a solid undercast until about Hollister. Approaching the LA basin, some puffy clouds reappeared and we were in and out of cumulus for another fifteen minutes before the endless pavement of LA appeared. At that point we were VFR all the way to Fullerton.
Disneyland itself was amazing. The boys, my wife, and I all had a fantastic time.
At lunch on Sunday, I started to look at the weather in detail for our return trip. The low-pressure system that had been off the northwest coast had now moved inland. It was causing rain throughout California and a forecast of possible convective activity for northern California. Things didn't look too bad for southern California, with clouds around 7000 feet. However, this time instead of there just being a single layer, the clouds extended up to and beyond 20,000 feet. Nevertheless, I figured we'd get out of the LA Basin, then descend to below the cloud layer and get home just fine.
As the afternoon continued, with a trip to the Enchanted Tiki Room and a ride on the jungle river, we did get a bit of a rain shower. Around 4pm, the boys were pretty worn out and we headed back to the airport. We arrived at the airport just about 5pm. Sunset was at 6pm. I wanted to be on the other side of the mountains before I couldn't see out the aircraft window. The airplane was already fueled, so I loaded up car seats and luggage.
As we were preparing to get everyone on board, there were some numbers I just couldn't make work in my head. The clouds near the airport were low enough and solid enough we would have to depart IFR. The minimum enroute altitude for about forty miles was 10,000 feet, passing over mountainous terrain that was up to 8500 feet. The cloud bases would be from 7000 feet layered to higher than I could climb. The freezing level was around 8000 feet. There was an Airmet for icing above the freezing level. And there was a PIREP for moderate rime icing near Bakersfield, 20 miles east of our route of flight, reported by a Cherokee at 9000 feet. And, we'd be passing through all of this just as daylight would be completely disappearing.
Well, none of this was adding up to a positive outcome. While there was an escape route over the mountains or back to Fullerton, it would have been exciting. My passengers would not appreciate an exciting airplane ride home after the great weekend we had. So, we called the Commonwealth Airport Motel about three-quarters of a mile from the airport. They had a room; we walked to the motel and checked in.
The next morning, there was still a marine layer over the basin. However, the higher-level clouds were gone, the freezing level was above 10,000 feet and there were no clouds above 5000 feet or so. We walked back to the plane, loaded up and headed home. Due to the low-pressure system, we battled stiff headwinds again on the way home. But, we got home in time for the boys to nap at school and for my wife and I to make it to work.
So, this was another in my long series of trips by general aviation that didn't go exactly as planned. But, by delaying the trip overnight we ensured that there was no excitement, my wife and kids are still jazzed about flying, and we all got to see the ending of Star Wars Episode 4 (A New Hope) which was coincidentally playing on broadcast TV at the motel room.
Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year email@example.com
Nailing Airspeed on Final
Learning to fly the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 and the Diamond DA40 can be rewarding in many ways. Both are fun to fly, and the extra speed helps on longer trips. For example, last weekend I brought back a SR22T from Richmond, VA to Palo Alto in 17 hours over two days.
Transitions into these airplanes take longer than stepping up from a C172 to a C182, mostly because there are more avionics and systems to learn. But the airplanes are also a little slipperier, and I sometimes notice clients I’m working with having a little challenge nailing the airspeed on final. Here are a few tips that may help you manage airspeed in these faster airplanes.
You might think, “a wing is a wing,” so why would flying one of these airplanes be any different from flying a Cessna 172. The general principles are indeed the same, but the nuances are more important in the faster planes. Why that should be the case had me wondering, until I ran across an article written by my friend Alan Brown, chief designer of the F-117 Stealth Fighter.
Alan makes the case in his article that if he were flying a trainer “which was reasonably clean, and didn’t have a very high lift wing,” then he “could quite safely cut the power on approach down to idle and just let it float in.” He goes on to say however, that if he were flying a “very high lift airplane… then my total drag is rising rapidly as the speed drops, and I need substantial power to maintain speed.” He argues that the higher lift airplane has a landing speed that’s further up the backside of the power curve, so as speed decreases, more power is required to maintain altitude than would be required in the trainer.
The BasicsRegardless of whether a client is flying a trainer or a Cirrus, I’ve always taught them to use small adjustments in pitch to make airspeed adjustments on final. Then, if they’re either too high or low, they should adjust the throttle until they have the right amount of power to make it to the runway.
You could probably get away using throttle to control airspeed on final in a trainer simply because these aircraft have so much drag and the airspeed won’t change rapidly with small changes in throttle. But try this technique in a Cirrus or Diamond, and you’ll likely see larger variations in airspeed on final. Generally, when I see someone having trouble nailing the airspeed on final in these planes, it’s because they’re using power as their primary means of controlling airspeed.
The challenge with maintaining airspeed in these faster airplanes is that pitch and power interact with each other. A good example is when one of these aircraft is low on final and you add power so that the aircraft doesn’t land short of the runway. When you add power, invariably these planes will also speed up. If you’re at your target airspeed of 77 knots in a SR22 or the DA40NG and you add power because you’re low, the airspeed will likely increase well above 80 knots, unless you also simultaneously pitch up as you add power. If you do, the slight increase in pitch mitigates the speed increase that would have occurred when you added throttle because you’re low. By making these slight pitch changes, up as you add power, and down as you decrease power, it’s much easier to nail the target airspeed.
This effect is particularly dramatic if you try pulling power to idle in one of these planes when you’re 50-75 feet AGL over the pond, as you might do in a Cessna 172. As Alan indicated in his article, the C172 will float in. But pull the throttle to idle in the DA40s, and the airspeed will VERY rapidly decay, unless you also pitch down substantially when you pull the power. That’s one of the reasons I like leaving some power on in these planes until after I’ve started the roundout, and am almost in the flare parallel to the runway.
By the way, Alan Brown’s article didn’t appear in a scientific journal. He’s an active RC modeler, and you can find his article in the RC newsletter he edits here. http://www.rcbees.org/newsletters/RCBN1609.pdf
Bob Lenox, Vice President – PAAA (Palo Alto Airport Assoc) firstname.lastname@example.org
Palo Alto Airport Association and YOU
If you’ve been around a couple of years, you’ve noticed that the airport is slowly improving; the runway smoothed out and potholes filled. The City took back operation of the airport from Santa Clara County, and has been very proactive in making small improvements, as budget allows. If you’ve been here longer, you know that the County really did treat PAO as a stepchild. The County owns and runs South County (E16) and Reid-Hillview (RHV), but only operated PAO under a lease arrangement.
For many years (over a decade, really) the Airport Association worked tirelessly to convince the City to take back the Airport earlier than the lease termination date of 2017. Due to the County’s management and accounting practices that allowed the infrastructure to deteriorate, even while maximizing profit-taking from our users, the airport’s condition was shameful, and in some cases, downright dangerous.
Over time, the airport has had an (please pardon the too obvious pun) up and down relationship with the City Council and the residents. The recent Council has been the most favorable one in memory. With help from the City Manager’s office, the Public Works Department and our Airport Staff, there has not been a better relationship in over a generation. However, it doesn’t take a historian to remember that there have been groups of residents, with allies on the City Council, who have wanted the airport closed for many different reasons – Noise, “dangerous little planes”, returning the land Tidal Basin, or to build Soccer fields or a Park, or even to build Anaerobic Digesters on the property.
There are currently some troubling developments among the populous. A group called Sky Posse Palo Alto has formed, mostly concerned with airline traffic into SFO and SJC. However, they have spawned and egged on the membership to complain about PAO operations, low flying little planes, leaded fuel and any and all other concerns they can think of. Sky Posse has gotten the ear of several Council members, as well as Congressional members. They have aligned with other groups in the area, in Southern California and the nation. They are well organized and vocal.
Some of their members have done their homework, and are asking the City Council to stop accepting Federal grants. This of course, would mean an end to airport improvements, and could eventually lead to closure. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Council will do any of that soon, but the Council is constituent driven, and if all they hear from are anti-aviation interests, I can assure you that, in the long-run, things will not go well.
The Palo Alto Airport Association (PAAA) has been at the forefront of advocating on behalf of the Aviation community, and relies on those interested in promoting, protecting and defending the airport for volunteers. At the very least, a membership shows interest; there is strength in numbers when we speak to the Council. We need you, too, to volunteer for Airport Day, our annual open house when the Community is invited out the airport for a day of education and information. Please join the Association www.paloaltoairport.aero and help us as we continue to move forward with the vision of PAO as a world-class local airport.
AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer
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West Valley Flying Club