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Sounding Board: The Airport

Daily Transcript Question: The strategic planning committee of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority announced that the expansion of Lindbergh Field is not an option. Given that finding, the airport will likely need to be relocated. Assuming the airport could be moved to any appropriate site in the county -- such as existing civilian or military airport sites or available open space -- where would you recommend the airport be relocated and why?

Bring Miramar to the table. For some political reason Miramar isn't even on San Diego County Regional Airport Authority's list of possible sites.

Instead of wasting millions studying desert airport sites, we need to seriously consider what assets we have right here: Miramar.

Regardless of the outcome, money would be well spent on a Miramar study.

-- Jim Desmond

San Marcos City Councilman, Captain, Delta Airlines

There are no easy answers to the airport location dilemma.

The requirement that the new airport be capable of conducting simultaneous instrument approaches is a fundamental reason for the lack of site alternatives. To fly parallel instrument approaches in bad weather, the FAA requires that the runways be at least 4300 feet apart. This means the airport must be big -- like LAX.

However, many major airports -- Philadelphia, for example -- have closely spaced (about 1,000 feet apart), parallel runways that allow for simultaneous takeoffs and landings, but not simultaneous instrument approaches.

Philadelphia's airport -- a hub for U.S. Air and Southwest -- handled 28.4 million passengers in 2004. Lindberg handled 16.4 million passengers in 2004 and the number is projected to grow to about 30 million by 2030.

Would a closely spaced, second runway fit at Lindbergh? No, not unless the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot is relocated or reconfigured. It is possible that a second runway could be added if the physical training area on the southwestern part of the Marine Base is moved.

There will be increased air traffic if the second runway is added, but it probably will stay within the existing flight corridors. (It is unlikely that Miramar will be available as an alternative site given the military significance of the base.)

The Campo/Boulevard site is about 65 miles east of downtown San Diego. By comparison, Denver International Airport is about 20 miles from downtown Denver.

The Campo/Boulevard site has no infrastructure, adequate water source, or sufficient transportation link. The site does have open space, which would rapidly disappear as development occurs.

Lindbergh Field would be closed if the Campo/Boulevard site were selected.

Questions to ponder:

Would the new Campo/Boulevard city become competition for San Diego?

How would San Diego's convention and hotel business be impacted?

How would travelers react?

Would the cost of the project sink a city that's barely afloat financially?

-- Mel Hinton

Retired airline pilot (TWA) and president of the San Diego Audubon Society. The author's opinions are his own, not those of the SDAS which is yet to take a position on the issue.

New Section: Sounding Board

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The Daily Transcript introduces Sounding Board, a regular opinion page feature focusing on current issues. Send your responses to soundingboard@sddt.com.

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