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"Should Torrance airport sell jet fuel?"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 00:53:16 +0430
Monday, December 17, 2007
Should Torrance airport sell jet fuel?
By Nick Green
The Torrance (CA) Daily Breeze
One business at Torrance airport sells bumper stickers with slogans that
read "I Love Airplane Noise" and "Jet Noise: The Sound of Freedom."
Not exactly the sentiment of those who live nearby.
Which is why a ban on the sale of jet fuel and some noisier types of
aircraft - including some jets - has long been in place at the city-owned
But now the Airport Commission, an advisory body to the City Council, is
taking another look at the policy banning jet fuel sales, a move that has
raised the hackles of some residents.
"I don't feel it serves the best interests of the majority of citizens of
Torrance," said Michael Wermers, vice president of the Southwood Riviera
Homeowners Association, who lives within a mile of the end of the runway.
"It serves a few pilots."
Indeed, the three-person Airport Commission subcommittee studying the matter
includes two pilots.
The subcommittee is just beginning its work and a report that may or may not
recommend changing the policy won't be completed until sometime next year.
Even then, any recommendation must first go to the full commission and then
the City Council, which has the final say.
Still, it's clear some members of the subcommittee are leaning toward
changing the policy that bans jet fuel sales.
"We have kind of a gut feeling from looking at it that it's been very
counterproductive," said Airport Commission Chairman Jim Gates, a pilot who
has flown out of the airport since 1972.
"The whole idea was it was going to keep jet planes away from Torrance and
that hasn't happened. It's almost like if you want to reduce (vehicle)
traffic in Torrance you would ban gas stations."
Only about a half-dozen jets are based at Torrance Municipal Airport today,
Overturning the ban on jet fuel sales, critics argue, would lead to more
jets flying in and out of the airport.
"Jet fuel is good for LAX, but I don't think it will be put into Torrance
for a long time," said Mayor Frank Scotto. "Eventually what would happen is
businesses (that cater to jets) would want to establish themselves in
Torrance. It would increase the number of takeoffs and landings dramatically
at the airport."
"I don't think it would be any draw," he said. "You wouldn't drive to
Gardena just to buy gas, would you, if you couldn't buy it in Torrance?"
But that's what jet pilots who fly into Torrance do now.
They land here, make a quick jaunt to Long Beach or elsewhere to buy jet
fuel and then return to Torrance.
Airport Commissioner Gerry Dingman, a pilot, seized on that at a commission
meeting Thursday as a justification for allowing the sale of jet fuel, which
he contends would actually decrease airport takeoffs and landings.
"Because we don't have fuel here we get two arrivals and departures rather
than just one of each," he said.
The issue is not new.
Back in 1989, some airport businesses contended the ban on jet fuel sales
was stifling growth.
"Business aviation is where the real market is today, and business aviation
means jet fuel," Scott McGrew, president of South Bay Aviation, told the
Daily Breeze at the time.
Gates still believes the city's management of the airport harms businesses
As president of the Torrance Airport Association, he once led an
unsuccessful legal battle against the city over the alleged illegal
diversion of airport revenue, according to the February 1998 issue of In
Flight USA magazine.
"There's been strong pressure to do whatever could be done to damage the
businesses at the airport," Gates said. "We've had some administrations that
were absolutely anti-airport."
Yet the airport remains an economic development engine for Torrance.
The airport is home to the city's fifth-largest private employer, Robinson
Helicopter Co., which has more than 1,000 workers.
Twenty years ago the arguments for and against jet fuel were much the same.
Neighboring residents feared allowing jet fuel sales would attract corporate
jets, increasing noise levels. Proponents countered that most small jets are
actually quieter than the piston-driven airplanes that use the airfield.
"They're 20 years behind the times," Tom McCrea, the founder of Southwest
Aircraft Services, said of the city government. "The trend is jet fuel now.
Eventually, there won't be any aviation fuel as we know it now. Gas-powered
(aircraft) - they're on their way out."
Yet he contradicts Gates' view of what allowing the sales would mean.
"It would bring more jet traffic into here, which would bring more
maintenance work, which would bring more to the aviation community," McCrea
He believes the city could simply handle the issue the way it does now, by
banning the loudest types of airplanes.
There's no denying Torrance airport is not as busy as it once was.
The number of aircraft operations - defined as either a takeoff or a landing
- at the airfield has declined by 67 percent since 1974, from more than
35,000 operations a month to about 15,000 today.
But that's fine with many local residents. They don't want to see any
reversal of the trend that would leave them battling jet noise and fumes,
which are recurring issues at airports in Van Nuys and Santa Monica.
The commission Thursday acquiesced to a City Council suggestion that the
timeline for gathering public comment on any change in the status of jet
fuel sales be extended from a proposed Dec. 31 date to March 1.
Presumably that will not only leave more time for data gathering, but also
let opposition grow.
Whether perception and politics ultimately win out over the arguments of
those who back the sale of jet fuel remains to be seen.
But opponents are ready to circle the wagons.
"I know people who live in the flight paths of airports that have jet
aircraft," Lomita resident Ernie Moore told the commission last week. "And
it's not pretty."
Comments on whether the city of Torrance should change its policy banning
the sale of jet fuel at Torrance airport should be directed to: Torrance
Airport Commission, Policy Subcommitte Study No. 1, 3301 Airport Drive,
Torrance, CA 90505 Writers should include their name, address, e-mail
address and telephone number. The deadline is March 1.
Post your opinion on this story in the CAA General Aviation Forum
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