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Palomar Airport Expansion Issues: Safety: Do the FAA and County Have Your Back? Blog #3

Vanishing Landfills & Levitating Planes

A Quick Recap

Blog 1 noted the FAA and County desire to expand Palomar Airport.   First by flying larger planes to increase passenger traffic five or tenfold.  Second by extending the Palomar Airport runway from 4900 to 6000 feet.   Longer than the Orange County John Wayne Airport runway.

Blog 2 noted Palomar Airport safety and environmental problems related to the FAA and County designating a closed landfill area as the Runway Safety Area [RSA].

This Blog 3 asks why the FAA and County can’t perform a few simple tests to test the safety of the RSA.   Confirm that large planes can safety land on 1000 feet of decomposing, methane emitting trash 30 feet deep.  Or modify airport operations to assure safety.

A Magician’s Skill

The FAA and County share the skills of magicians Houdini, David Copperfield, and David Blaine.  Apparently, all can make large objects disappear and levitate others.

Memorably, David Copperfield made New York’s Statute of Liberty vanish as his audience sat on a large specially built stage.   A large curtain in front of the audience closed.  An hour later, the curtain opened.   A black, star-filled sky stared back at the audience.

Whether the FAA and County can make the Palomar landfill problems so easily vanish remains to be seen.  At the moment, the FAA's and County's best chance to avoid a Palomar Runway Safety Area disaster over this landfill seems to rely on levitating an approaching plane before it crashes.

What the FAA and County Need to Do Now

What should the FAA and County do?  Calculate the force of an 80,000 pound plane flying at 200 miles an hour crashing into the RSA.  Then calculate the structural stability of the landfill and the ability of any landfill methane gas collection system in place to survive the force.  Then perform a risk management analysis to assess the chances of the landfill methane gas engulfing the crashed plane in fire.  Finally, assess what environmental damage results to groundwater when tens of thousands of gallons of water, leaking aviation fuel, and fire-fighting special chemicals saturate the landfill and migrate to the groundwater.

Will the FAA and County do the right thing?  Let’s see if the FAA addresses the issue in its pending responses to comments similar to those above made on the FAA California Pacific Airlines [CPA] Environmental Assessment.

What the FAA Knew Six Months Before Circulating the FAA California Pacific Airlines Environmental Assessment

On January 10, 2012, David Cushing of FAA wrote Peter Drinkwater, County Director of Airports: "With the proposed number of annual jet operations, we understand the EMB-170 would become the new critical aircraft for CRQ [Palomar].  This change will require the County to update the Airport Layout Plan (ALP) and submit a new Runway Safety Area (RSA) Study to FAA for review and approval."

In other words, 6 months BEFORE the FAA circulated the CPA Environmental Assessment that makes no mention of a Palomar Runway Safety area study, the FAA had identified the Palomar Runway Safety Area associated with CPA EMB-170 use as a safety issue requiring study.  

Yesterday, I sent John Silva, the FAA environmental coordinator that I am advised is working on the FAA CPA EA, a reminder of the above FAA letter.

Is the FAA listening?

Lady Liberty

By the way, when David Copperfield’s stage curtains opened two hours after the show started, Lady Liberty again welcomed the audience.  How?  During the show, the special stage had imperceptively rotated 180 degrees towards the blackness of the ocean. Then again 180 degrees back.

Do the FAA and County recall that Lady Liberty is a symbol of an open government that protects people?

Next Week: Blog #4: Palomar Airport Issues: Fair and Balanced Reporting

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John O'Reilly November 16, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Please come to the PAAC (Palomar Airport Advisory Committee) mtgs to get facts. Or invite the PAAC to come to your HOA meetings. Question what you read elsewhere. There is a ton of information out there that is just plan incorrect. For example, the planes will never get any bigger than the biggest airplanes there currently. It's an issue of WIDTH NOT LENGTH. This misinformation is repeated continuously. Not so! A longer runway allows the planes to load more fuel and go to destinations further away & a longer runway increases safety. Makes sense - more room for error as you approach to land. IF (& that's big IF) the runway is extended (many years if ever); it would be good for our safety, convenience and economy. For larger planes, the main runway and all the taxi-ways would have to be widened - but the airport is landlocked north/south and will never expand in WIDTH. The cost & complexity of lengthening the runway over a landfill makes that a long shot. Add the problem with state/national debt & it's hard to fathom. We'll find out when the feasibility study is completed. Please come to the PAAC meetings. In 2013: January 17, February 21, April 18, May 16, June 20, August 15, September 19, November 21. They start at 7 p.m. and are almost always held at the Carlsbad city council chambers; 1200 Carlsbad Village Dr. You can also see the agendas and other information at this web site: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dpw/airports/paacagenda.html

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