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Hosting Café San Diego again, I have flown beyond the Sunroad controversy.  Really.

Actually, I flew over the Sunroad building on my way out of Montgomery Field earlier this week as I began a two-week trip.  Right now, I’m in Northern California, then off to Seattle, briefly in San Diego, then Connecticut, Northern California and back to San Diego.  Part business, part family, part pleasure.  As a private pilot with my own plane, the national air transportation system enables me to arrive at more places closer to people I want to visit at times more convenient for our schedules and with greater flexibility for my friends, family and business partners.

Sunroad Still Not Lower

Of course, anyone driving along Highway 163 can tell you that the Sunroad Centrum 12 building has not been lowered — yet.  For the curious, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association installed a Web cam to chronicle the deconstruction.

Check out the time-lapse movie.  Seems like progress is very slow and certainly behind the schedule provided to the city in July.

And remember that Sunroad Enterprises plans on two similar buildings at the same site.  Only, they no longer appear as 14 and 16 stories on their real estate leasing website.

City Protecting Airspace

Recently, the city of San Diego became proactive about protecting the airspace within their jurisdiction affecting these airports: Miramar, Lindbergh Field, Montgomery Field, North Island and Brown Field.  Humorous stories appeared because the new requirement was more like a blunt instrument than a precise solution.  Any project that was high enough to intersect the federal airspace regulations, called FAR Part 77, must obtain an obstruction evaluation by the FAA.

Did you realize that the city just started doing this three years after the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans for those airports called for such protection in 2004?  And a year after Sunroad got their building permit?

Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans

Protecting airspace from tall buildings is only one of several planning factors that affect airports and the air transportation system.  The other major factors are noise, annoyance and safety.  Compatible development that accommodates those factors is the goal.  How can we plan for growth that does not reduce the effectiveness of air transportation?

Developers and their land use lawyers have objected, sometimes strenuously, to the draft plans that better define incompatible land uses.  Planning jurisdictions, like the city of San Diego, are concerned about restricting growth near airports, which sometimes are the last stretches of open space available.  And aviation users and airport operators want restrictions against incompatible developments similar to all too many that have increased safety risks or placed residents too close to noisy aircraft.

Noise and Annoyance

And just as we are making progress with Sunroad deconstruction and updating those airport compatibility plans, new frustrations arise.

Near Carlsbad, residents have become agitated about potential growth of air service at Palomar Airport.  Near Santee, new development on the slopes of Rattlesnake Mountain places residential housing under the flight path to Gillespie Field.  And in Otay Mesa, the community plan updates and on-airport development proposals are occurring before we’ve agreed to a revised airport master plan for Brown Field.

So many controversies, so little time!

Aviation Innovations Bring New Possibilities

If we can’t get these airport issues resolved, then the wondrous innovations in aviation will be diminished.  New navigation technologies based on GPS satellites, new safety features include parachutes for the whole plane, new personal jets that fly farther and quieter, and new affordable sport aircraft that enable more people to get into or stay involved with aviation.

In the Community Airfields Association of San Diego, we champion aviation as a community benefit.  We welcome your interest at www.sdairfields.org.

— RICK BEACH

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