Palomar Airport Expansion Issues: Should Palomar Expand? The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. Blog #5

The Fly in the Ointment: the FAA


You know every issue has two sides.  Palomar expansion has three.

The Good

For near-Palomar residents, it would be nice to fly Palomar.  It is unclear that the cost would always be competitive with other airports.  But the convenience of driving short distances to Palomar and quickly clearing airport security merits a “thumbs up.”

For Carlsbad businesses, Palomar provides ready access to corporate movers and shakers aboard corporate jets.  Carlsbad hotels, the golf course, and other businesses would attract more customers.

And, since 2000 the FAA and County have promised that new planes using Palomar will meet federal Stage 3 and 4 lower noise requirements.

“Sounds” good.

The Bad

Palomar expansion brings more noise, traffic, and pollution, and lower safety thresholds.

Aircraft noise swells with more flights.  Instead of having only “x” planes and helicopters fly over your house, the number will more than double.

As to traffic, Palomar now handles nearly 100,000 passengers per year.   Recall that the recent California Pacific Airline Environmental Assessment estimated CPA would initially handle 15 daily flights using 3 planes.  Each flight involves two operations: a takeoff and a landing.   So there are 30 daily operations.

Do the math.  The number of crew and passengers handled annually = 365 days x 30 operations per day x 80 passengers = 876,000.   Plus the 100,000 already there.   

But – as they say on the Home Shopping Network – wait there’s more.  CPA has suggested that within 5 years it expects to use more planes and fly to more cities than its environmental assessment assessed.

Accordingly, Carlsbad can anticipate many more than 1,000,000 passengers per year on the roads.   Traffic congestion means more traffic noise, pollution, roadway accidents, and delays.

What about airport safety?  As noted in earlier Blogs 2, 3, and 4, the County and FAA designate as the Palomar Runway Safety area for larger planes, the 30-foot deep methane-emitting, decomposing closed landfill at the east end of the runway.  As of today, the FAA and County are turning a blind eye to safety issues the landfill raises.

The Ugly: The Fly in the Ointment: the FAA

Recent Palomar Airport daily operations number about 130,000 annually.  In 1999, Palomar had about 291,000 operations.   In other words, the financial crash has blessed the residents of Carlsbad and surrounding cities with some noise, traffic, and pollution relief.  

Even with no new Palomar airline service and even without extending the Palomar Airport runway, Palomar will handle many more operations as its history shows.

Let’s say that you could vote on Palomar Airport expansion.  You want to be fair.  Convenience is good, business growth good.  Some planes and helicopters must fly over your house.  Some congestion is digestible.  You have reached the Zen moment:  “Can’t we all get along?”

You vote.  You pick fair operational and passenger levels.   Perhaps 350,000 annual operations and 600,000 passengers.   These levels would be more than twice current operations and six times current passenger levels.

One big problem: the fly in the ointment: the FAA.   The FAA says that the County may not deny service to any plane meeting Palomar Airport design requirements.

Quite simply, your vote does not count.  At least not a vote on directly limiting Palomar aircraft operational and passenger levels.  

Next week’s Blog 6: Palomar Expansion Issues: What Can You Do?

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