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The Union-Tribune‘s Penni Crabtree wrote up an interesting bit of news this weekend (emphasis mine):

At San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, the number of departing flights is expected to decline by 7.35 percent by the end of the year, compared with the same fourth-quarter period in 2007, according to a breakdown prepared for the Union-Tribune by the Official Airline Guide, which tracks airline flight schedules covering about 28 million departures each year.

This is news from the reality-based world.

A couple of days before this, though, the paper published opinion from somewhere else.

Embracing yet another dubious claim, (airport authority) Chairman Alan Bersin flatly asserts that opposition from the military and surrounding residents forever removes from further consideration the sensible joint use of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

Bersin is certainly capable of embracing dubious claims but I think he’s on pretty solid ground with this one. I mean, did I miss something? The airport authority put a measure on the ballot for county voters in 2006 asking whether they wanted to consider joint use of Miramar. The measure lost by more than 23 points. Nobody could get behind it. Even the groups that had been instrumental in getting the measure put on the ballot in the way it was were reluctant to endorse it. The whole thing was a flop.

If you were trying to send a message that this idea of “sensible joint use” at the military base was unacceptable to this county and its residents, you could not have sent it clearer. Even the biggest champion of this sensible joint use — Bersin’s predecessor, Joe Craver — was forced to admit that joint use just wouldn’t work. The base would have to be abandoned by the military. The idea that a major airport and a military air station could work together on that patch of land was just as radical as building an airport in Imperial Valley. The difference is, putting an airport in Imperial Valley would have been welcomed by its neighbors.

But back to the basics. The number of flights out of Lindbergh Field has not increased markedly in the last 15 years. Roughly the same number of flights came in and out of the airport in 2005 as did in 1994. And the news this week, that flights would be cut this year, does add more facts to our little reality-based world.

So where, exactly is the U-T? The paper’s broadside of Bersin’s “dubious claim” came within a two-day series of editorials about the future of the airport, which tried to make the case — again — that an expansive new airport needed to be built at Miramar. Ironically, the first edition of the editorials carried the headline “The Grand Delusion.”

The fundamental problem with the airport board’s myopic, circular thinking is that what we have in cramped Lindbergh Field — 661 acres, a single, truncated runway and no room to build another one — is not nearly enough acreage for an airport to support San Diego’s burgeoning economy in the decades ahead. San Diego has the busiest single-runway commercial airport in North America. …

… Within the next 10 years, or possibly 20 or more if the regional economy turns less robust, the single, shorter-than-normal runway at Lindbergh Field will reach capacity.

Though the paper’s doom and gloom is not supported by facts and history, like any random prediction, it may be proven correct.

But the editorial board’s myopic, circular obsession with an unworkable, untenable and unacceptable proposal to put a gigantic new airport on Marine Corps land makes one wonder who, exactly, is suffering from the grand delusion.

Next: Another way to think about Lindbergh and the future of San Diego air travel.

SCOTT LEWIS

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