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Airport safety discussions renewed

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

Pilots flying in and out of the Carson City Airport will be under scrutiny by volunteers trying to improve safety in the area.

Members of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association expect to help Naval Sea Cadets watch for aircraft flying low or off-course.

“The airport is a very important component of the community,” said Chris Romine, president of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. “We just all have to work together to find ways to make it more acceptable.”

No timetable has been set for this sky monitoring, but residents want to see it begin as soon as possible.

Dottie and Bill Kelley, whose home was damaged last June when a plane crash-landed near their Apollo Drive home, wanted to see the airport authority do something fast after a workshop was held last summer to allow residents to ask questions about security.

They are concerned about the possibility of more jets and larger aircraft flying in and out because it could add to the likelihood of another plane coming down in their neighborhood. The plane that landed near the Kelley home broke windows and knocked down their fence and mailbox, among other things.

“We still shudder,” the Kelleys wrote in a letter to the airport authority. “Many weeks had to pass before we again could feel comfortable in our home.”

Another small-plane crash happened in the same neighborhood in 2001, seriously injuring a man who was gardening in his backyard.

Also being considered is raising the flight level, currently 800 feet above ground level, to 1,000 feet above ground level, and allowing the authority to fine and possibly evict pilots who lease space at the airport.

Grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration will allow the airport to pay for the realignment of the main runway so air traffic flies over the golf course and the city’s industrial area.

The $25 million is being paid over four years. The first installment arrived and the second is expected soon. The work likely won’t be complete until 2010 or 2011, however.

Other related additions, such as improved guidance equipment, would come from the same grant. The feds are paying 95 percent of the cost while the airport is paying the remainder, said Neil Weaver, an airport authority member.

A policy change on the ground, approved by the airport authority in January but not yet carried out, might jeopardize future federal funding for improvements even though it was meant to slow down drivers, according to an FAA employee.

Because pilots were driving their cars through the airport and on a taxiway, sometimes very fast, the authority decided signs should be erected allowing drivers to travel 35 mph in some areas, specifically portions of the ring road and Taxiway Charlie.

The current speed limit is 20 mph and Taxiway Charlie has a sign that prohibits vehicle traffic except for equipment and emergency vehicles, Weaver said.

“We are against taxiways being used for anything other than aircraft,” said Racior Cavole, an FAA compliance specialist for the Western-Pacific Region. “It’s something we do not approve of, something we won’t give our blessing to.”

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.