The University City Community Association hosted an Aviation 2020 forum on Jan. 29, at the University Community Library. Guest presenters discussed various aspects of the area’s aviation concerns and included representatives from: San Diego International Airport (SDIA), Quiet Skies La Jolla (QSLJ), Montgomery-Gibbs Airport (MGA), Montgomery-Gibbs Environmental Coalition (MGEC), MCAS Miramar, and Citizens Advocating Safe Aviation (CASA). The FAA was invited but did not attend.
Anthony Stiegler and Dr. Anthony Price represented the Quiet Skies La Jolla group and discussed why increased jet noise is bad for our health, and is associated with stress, sleep disturbances, cognitive learning deficits, and the development of cardiovascular disease.
While they do feel increased airport capacity is good for the economy, QSLJ is asking for “smart growth” with noise reductions by having flights further away from and higher over impacted communities. With the NextGen Metroplex implemented in 2017, the air superhighways have impacted the communities of La Jolla, University City, Clairemont, Point Loma, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, East County, with noise complaints skyrocketing.
They pointed out that with the San Diego International Airport’s new Airport Development Plan, there will be 38% more flights in the skies. SDIA does not have a curfew for inbound arrivals. The group has hired an environmental litigation firm to advance a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenge asking to set aside airport expansion until appropriate noise mitigation measures are implemented.
During the meeting itself, jet noise was ironically heard.
MCAS Miramar was represented by Kristin Camper, Community Plans and Liaison officer. Camper went over the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) and the current safety zone and noise contours as compared to those in the past, with some showing areas have been reduced. The biggest changes will be the switch to the F-35B stealth fighter aircraft, replacing the FA-18C/D jets.
One retired military gentleman shared that the noise brought up his PTSD, while others vehemently conveyed that planes are flying over their homes on a continual basis. While Kristin Camper reiterated that planes are not allowed to fly over the community, she commented that she could “not guarantee that planes will never fly” outside the safety and noise zones.
Ron Belanger spoke on behalf of Citizens Advocating Safe Aviation. Belanger pointed out that none of the departure or approach procedures of MCAS Miramar fly over La Jolla or University City, even when there are Santa Ana winds, when the runways are reversed.
Also, there are no designated crash zones west of Miramar, those are located in east Miramar. CASA’s concerns are those pilots that ignore the Department of Defense (DoD) and FAA procedures, which tend to be visiting military aircraft or DoD-contracted aircraft operating as transients at Miramar. These pilots are not used to tightly controlled airspace.
University City continues to mourn over the F-18 neighborhood crash in 2008, which killed four people. If the distressed F-18 crashed two to three seconds earlier, it would have hit University City High School. CASA wants elected officials to advocate on the community’s behalf to MCAS Miramar command and to FAA SoCal to demand adherence to published approaches and departures at all airports.
Many of the questions at the end of the forum were concentrated towards MCAS Miramar, especially with pilots ignoring the designated airspace.
Jorge Rubio, the interim deputy director at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport, spoke about MGA being one of the top 20 general aviation airports in the U.S. The airport is critical in preventing extreme delays at the San Diego International Airport, active in noise monitoring, and assisted by an Airports Advisory Committee. The airport is managed by the city of San Diego.
Sandra Stahl, MGEC executive director, spoke about the dangers of leaded general aviation fuel being used by planes filling up at Montgomery-Gibbs Airport. Leaded fuel is only used in propeller planes, those generally flying into and out of MGA. Lead is a neurotoxin with no safe levels and is on the World Health Organization’s list of 10 chemicals of major concern.
MGA generates about 1,442 tons of toxic lead each year, which “not only pollutes the air, but falls down on our community contaminating the soil and grass and persists forever.” There is an easy solution to sell unleaded fuel, which pilots prefer anyway since unleaded fuel means less needed maintenance for their planes. The solution has been brought up to city of San Diego officials, but the city has refused to open up the process to find a vendor or become its own vendor.
The San Diego International Airport is in the process of getting a new Airport Development Plan (ADP) in place, and if all approvals are in place, the new Terminal 1 will open in 2024. Brendan Reed, director of Planning and Environmental Affairs, provided components of the ADP, which included a new Terminal 1 (with 11 new gates, more gate-area seating, restaurants and shops, and additional security checkpoint lanes), new Taxiway A, connection to a potential mobility hub (built by SANDAG), duel-level curbway and curbfront, and on-airport entry roadway.
The on-airport entry roadway would take 45,000 cars a day off Harbor Drive and will include a right-of-way for future outbound lanes. The new Terminal 1 will not increase maximum capacity of the airport and is expected to reduce emissions compared to “no build” scenario. The public is welcome to attend the next Airport Noise Advisory Committee meeting on Feb. 19, 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside, 4875 N. Harbor Drive.
A wealth of information was shared during the Aviation 2020 forum, and all materials can be found at universitycitynews.org.