Clairemont: Touch and Go needs to go

Residents want Montgomery Field to get the lead out

In December, a plane crashed into a Clairemont home, killing two passengers and one dog (at home). The residents had left ten minutes prior to the crash.
  • In December, a plane crashed into a Clairemont home, killing two passengers and one dog (at home). The residents had left ten minutes prior to the crash.

"It's a constant barrage of planes sputtering and buzzing," said one resident that lives under Montgomery Field's flight path.

Montgomery Field accident

Dec. 2017 footage of plane crash into house

Dec. 2017 footage of plane crash into house

Eden Yaege, Clairemont town council president said, "Many people have noticed that over the last few months there seems to be more aircraft flying out of Montgomery and it seems they are flying at a lower altitude. We have sent our concerns to the airport, only to be told that the airport is investigating.

"We sent our concerns to our councilmember [Chris Cate] and were directed to the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee. We sent our concerns to the committee and they directed us back to the airport. In the meantime, the planes continue to fly over our homes, schools and businesses. Our residents have been complaining for over a year about the increased noise and now they add the fear of plane crashes to that list."

Pilots use this aviation terminal chart all the time. Green lines show the distance between Montgomery Field and nearby airspace. Black lines show departure paths, while purple lines are arrival routes. Red squares depict altitudes (in hundreds, add two zeros) to follow (100/48 is busy airspace with airlines and jets; 32/SFC is busy airspace for military use; SFC/10,000 means heavy airline activity to the south).

Pilots use this aviation terminal chart all the time. Green lines show the distance between Montgomery Field and nearby airspace. Black lines show departure paths, while purple lines are arrival routes. Red squares depict altitudes (in hundreds, add two zeros) to follow (100/48 is busy airspace with airlines and jets; 32/SFC is busy airspace for military use; SFC/10,000 means heavy airline activity to the south).

In February, a plane crashed in Kearny Mesa killing one (pilot). In December, a plane crashed into a Clairemont home, killing two (on plane) and one dog (at home). The residents had left ten minutes prior to the crash.

Airport staff confirmed flight training is responsible for about 75-percent of Montgomery Field operations (40-percent are touch and go operations). Because of this, many want the flying clubs out of Montgomery. Per the city, they can't force them out since they are FAA-approved.

Airport staff confirmed flight training is responsible for about 75-percent of Montgomery Field operations (40-percent are touch and go operations). Because of this, many want the flying clubs out of Montgomery. Per the city, they can't force them out since they are FAA-approved.

Gurujan Dourson saw that December crash. He was walking his poodle Charlee when he saw an airplane coming at him from 20 feet away. After power lines knocked him off his feet, he saw the plane try to land in a nearby school yard before crashing into his neighbors house and exploding.

Cate didn't want to talk about Montgomery Field, because he wanted to talk inside Montgomery Field? (CrownAir's hangar on March 15)

Cate didn't want to talk about Montgomery Field, because he wanted to talk inside Montgomery Field? (CrownAir's hangar on March 15)

After a second explosion, his poodle got hit by a truck — she was found days later hiding under a neighbors boat. Charlee now gets startled whenever a plane sputters or backfires. "If my car did that, I would immediately go to the mechanic." Dourson said he wants the city to finish undergrounding power lines. "The power lines that fell that day could have killed us."

A March 2 internal city memo noted constituent's "elevated sense of concern" over plane crashes and "longstanding concerns about noise." It noted ten fatal aircraft accidents (21 fatalities) near Montgomery Field since 1983. Nationwide 2016 data showed almost 94 percent of aviation-related fatalities are general aviation (like majority of Montgomery flights).

Over the past decade, airport operations (take-offs or landings) at Montgomery show five aircraft fatalities out of over 2 million operations. By contrast, Brown Field had more than twice the fatalities with less than half the operations. Operations at Montgomery between 2008 (233,744) and 2017 (207,103) remained fairly steady with the most being in 2008.

The city's memo stated that Montgomery Field is "managed safely and efficiently."

To the argument that the airport was there first, one resident responded, "If we had the same airport that was there before homes were built, I don't think anyone would be complaining."

When Serra Mesa resident Gary Keller retired nine years ago, he noticed planes flying over his head every few seconds. This was his introduction to flight training touch and go operations.

Airport staff confirmed flight training is responsible for about 75-percent of Montgomery Field operations (40-percent are touch and go operations). Because of this, many want the flying clubs out of Montgomery. Per the city, they can't force them out since they are FAA-approved.

Keller's key concern is the harmful effects of aviation fuel (Avgas). Even though lead was banned in automotive fuel in 1996, it hasn't made that same sweeping transition in general aviation.

Airport staff said the health and environmental impacts of Avgas is something they aren't "qualified to address whether it is or is not causing health problems."

Keller argues that health impacts from lead are widely known and that it causes learning disabilities, especially among young children. "They are fine with discussing noise, but not so good about discussing the far more insidious problems of their lead emissions.” Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to ensure children in California automatically get tested for lead.

A study just released suggests deaths related to lead exposure are ten times higher than originally thought.

According to one resident, Gibbs and CrownAir are the two aviation fuel suppliers at Montgomery Field. Cate held an event last week inside CrownAir's hangar at Montgomery Field.

CrownAir was sued in 2011 for violating Proposition 65 (toxic enforcement act). The lawsuit stated selling Avgas exposed those nearby to lead without first warning them. As part of the settlement, CrownAir was required to post warning signs. Keller said Montgomery Field neglected to hang the signs. "When I pointed this out to them, they said they must have been stolen." He said signs were eventually posted.

When it comes to noise, Keller said the ordinance residents fought for in the 1980s is ludicrous. "If you own a dog that barks and you do nothing, ultimately you could end up with [other enforcement measures besides a fine]. If you put wings on that barking dog, it becomes a plane, and it can continue to make the same noise, over a greater area, and there is nothing anyone can do about it."

Airport staff confirmed noise violations have no other enforcement action beyond fines.

Keller said even though Montgomery Field belongs to the city, the tenants seem to run the show. "Students from all over the world come to Montgomery Field to learn how to fly. It costs up to $50,000 to become a commercial pilot. Follow the money."

Airport staff said most of the flight schools are non-profit "flying clubs" that are not master lease holders — the main source of revenue from them is through fuel purchases for which the city receives $300,000 annually (Montgomery Field and Brown Field combined). Fees go into the Airport Enterprise Fund with a revenue stream of about $5 million annually.

John is a commercial pilot that flies out of Montgomery often. He said the planes look low to residents because they're taking off or landing. "The FAA does not allow you to be low in urban areas unless you're taking off or landing."

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Comments

If you are living in the flight path and you moved in after the airport was built then SHUT UP STUPID!

We see this all the time. - Rinse, repeat... Same arguments with the same paucity of facts and exclusivism. The bottom line is Montgomery Field is no more or less dangerous than any other county airport, is far less dangerous than the freeways that surround it, and as an airport, it supports hundreds of high-quality jobs, provides city, county, state, and federal tax revenue, and a place for people to learn how to fly (where else do you get pilots?). That these NIMBYs lacked the foresight to choose a home outside of the area is not a valid reason to ban the airport or curtail operations. That effort will fail. Pilots at MYF are genuinely cautious and respectful of neighbors - you can see that in the efforts they have made to comply with self-induced noise abatement. You get more toxic fumes from diesel trucks on the 15, 163, and 805 freeways than airplanes can produce with their highly efficient engines. Airport haters will always be around seeking to restrict or eliminate airports. Their selfishness would extend to eliminating the jobs of those dependent upon the airport for their livelihood - but, hey, its all about them...

Ray Richmond, General Manager for CrownAir Aviation, wanted to clarify a few things:

What is often misunderstood about General Aviation airports is the critical role they play in our communities. Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport is the base for several operations that are very important to the City of San Diego. Below are some examples:

  • This airport is the base for the City of San Diego’s Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) operation. These are the police helicopters that support the Police department’s role in providing public safety for the entire City of San Diego. The City is fortunate to have this airport to serve these needs.

  • This airport is the base for the City of San Diego’s Fire and Rescue helicopter operations. Its central location makes it the ideal location for these operations as well.

  • Several Air Ambulance companies use this airport to transport sick and injured patients to and from local hospitals. Rady Children’s Hospital and Sharp are within just over a mile’s distance and helicopter and airplane crews are based at the airport 24/7 to support this need.

  • Planes arrive and depart throughout the day and night from this airport transporting donated organs due to its proximity to several local hospitals.

  • The airport is used by several federal law enforcement agencies for their airborne operations.

  • Many of the students learning to fly out of Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport are veterans being trained to fill the shortage of commercial pilots.

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by Julie Stalmer

Your company, CrowneAir, which was sued for being in violation of Prop 65 four years ago (you should know, you signed the consent agreement) is fully aware that there has been an unleaded fuel available for years. Why have you not made it available? The flight schools that you sell this fuel to who fly tens of thousands of touch and go operations at the lowest elevations, over an area which is the most densely populated having the most schools, day care centers and children between the ages of 12 and 24 months who are the most adversely affected by the lead emissions. We’re talking about Serra Mesa. You are quick with the canned speech about emergency services while you blithely look away from the generations of children who have been pummeled by lead from your fuel. Is it the profit margin because mogas is cheaper or are you still going with the storage excuse?

It's been there for nearly eighty years. These whiners moved in after it was already there. Too bad, so sad. Pack your bags, Jack.

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