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A reader wonders whether helicopters and commercial airplanes could successfully mix at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Good question.

And the answer depends upon whom you talk to.

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority says it works.

The Marine Corps says it doesn’t.

Hmm. So let’s take a look at the reasoning each uses.

Keith Wilschetz, the authority’s director of airport system planning, says Miramar’s helicopters can be maneuvered more easily than the fighter jets that train at the base. But he says the authority isn’t sure exactly where that helicopter training would go if a commercial airport is built at Miramar. The concept presented back in June – with two new runways at Miramar – was just that: A concept. It put helicopter training north of the air bases’ existing runways.

“We don’t know how it would work out,” Wilschetz said. “We laid out a concept just so we could identify impacts, but we’ve never said this is the way to do it.”

Maj. Jason Johnston, a Miramar spokesman, says helicopter operations would be even more problematic than fighter jets at an airport shared by commercial and military planes. The base’s eight helicopter squadrons at Miramar train to make aircraft carrier landings. And they practice lifting heavy loads, such as Humvees.

The helicopters practice mountainous area landings in Miramar’s eastern portion. Johnston says Miramar’s terrain is vital for training that couldn’t be replicated on flat lands like that found in Yuma, Ariz. That’s where supporters of the Miramar proposal say Miramar’s fighters could move.

“If you imagine us trying to do that (landing training),” Johnston says, “and having to get out of the way for a 747 – that doesn’t work.”

ROB DAVIS

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