Douglas County may seek voter OK for airport weight limit

Weight limits for Minden-Tahoe Airport's runway will be reviewed following a decision by Douglas County commissioners Thursday. If those studies indicate the bearing capacity is well over the current weight limit ordinance, commissioners could ask the voters in 2006 whether those weight limits should be increased.

In the meantime, the current weight restrictions and rules will be enforced. The decision marks the first step toward resolving the airport's ongoing controversy.

Federal Aviation Agency rules prohibit discrimination against planes of a certain weight, but an ordinance approved by voters in 1984 limits the weight of airplanes allowed to land.

Planes landing at Minden-Tahoe Airport are subject to a 50,000-pound weight limit. According to a 2002 study by engineering firm Eckrose Green, the runway could accommodate planes weighing 75,000 pounds.

The issue came to a head in late January, after Minden-Tahoe Airport business Hutt Aviation filed a complaint with the FAA, saying Douglas County's weight limitation violates agency assurances to make the airport available for public use without discrimination.

In a letter to Airport Manager Jim Braswell dated August 2004, Racior Cavole, airport compliance specialist for the FAA, agreed.

"Unless you have documentation justifying the retention of the present runway design weight shown on the airport layout plan, that plan should be revised to depict the most accurate runway data available at the airport," he said.

Commissioner Kelly Kite made it clear that a decision to increase the weight limit would not be made without a vote of the people.


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