Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006 | In their letters to the editor, Bill Bradshaw and Mark Mentges suggest that San Diego International Airport (SDIA) is capable of serving the air transportation needs to the region indefinitely.

We at the airport authority are pleased that Mr. Bradshaw has found SDIA to be less congested than most airports. However, SDIA will not remain like this forever. Air travel in and out of San Diego is expected to more than double over the next 30 years. SDIA cannot meet this long-term demand – the 78-year-old airfield, with its single, range-limited runway, could become severely constrained as early as 2015, and operations could exceed capacity by 2022.

Nor can we rely on other regional airports as relief valves. All Southern California airports are becoming more congested and capacity-restrained. Los Angeles International Airport is expected to reach capacity within 10 years, as is John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Moreover, connecting to other airports to get to destinations adds time, delays and costs to air travelers and businesses.

Mr. Mentges suggests that the new Boeing 787 will solve SDIA’s capacity problem. But while a greater number of international flights and flight consolidation are likely, a significant percentage of the flights and flight consolidation are likely, a significant percentage of the flights from San Diego will continue to be short-range (500 miles or less). The airline industry is market-driven, and airlines cannot be forced to use specific aircraft.

And in answer to Mr. Bradshaw’s question – How many runways does Heathrow have? – Heathrow has three runways, two of which are roughly 12,000 feet long.

Mr. Bradshaw further suggests that developers are behind the airport authority’s search for a new airport site and that “the city would be better served by disbanding” the airport authority.

The airport authority was created by the state legislature and assumed ownership and operations of SDIA on January, 1, 2003. This same law mandates that the airport authority search for an airport location that will best meet the long-term air transportation needs of the region and place that recommendation on the ballot no later than Nov. 2006.

The current Airport Site Selection Program has left no stone unturned. The analysis is the most comprehensive ever conducted in the history of San Diego County. I invite Mr. Bradshaw, Mr. Mentges and all San Diegans to review the complete “Decision Document” and “Lindbergh Field Alternatives Considered,” which are available online at the authority’s website.

The writer is president/CEO of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

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