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"Redding Dragstrip may have to shrink track for new airport runway"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Redding Dragstrip may have to shrink track for new airport runway
The Chico (CA) Record-Searchlight

REDDING  When a local group purchased IASCO Flight Training last month,
keeping the commercial pilot school in Redding, plans to add a parallel
runway at Redding Municipal Airport throttled up. 
And building a third runway could mean changes for the Redding Dragstrip,
which has operated a quarter-mile track east of the airport since 1953. 

The drag strip leases the property from the city. 

To make room for the runway, the southern end of the drag strip could be
shaved, reducing the track to an eighth-mile. 

Bob Lidell, Redding Dragstrip president and track manager, said Wednesday
there has also been talk of building the runway between the existing main
runway and his track, an option he prefers. 

"But I don't know enough about the airport or the space and the safety
concerns," Lidell said. "That is above my pay grade." 

Although Airports Manager Rod Dinger doesn't rule anything out, he said the
2004 airport master plan identified the southern end of the drag strip as
the best spot for a new runway. 

"I don't want to say we couldn't pause for a moment and look and see, but we
went through an extensive master plan process in 2004, where a lot of people
put a lot of thought into it," Dinger said, "so you don't want to throw all
those efforts out." 

The city isn't opposed to taking another look and maybe revalidating its
first choice, Dinger said, but officials also don't want to give false hope
that they could decide to plant the parallel runway between the drag strip
and current runway. 

"That location could have an adverse effect on" future growth of the
airport, Dinger said. 

What is certain is that work on a new runway, which could cost just under $5
million, is years out. Officials are still waiting for Federal Aviation
Administration approval to start the environmental process. 

"The planning process will take 18 months of environmental study, a full
year of design and a full year of construction," Dinger said. "So you're
talking a minimum of 3  years once you start the clock, and the clock has
not been started." 

IASCO flight trainers and their students would use the runway. The school
uses the airport, but flight sessions can be interrupted by other airport

The school has about 100 students enrolled and has graduated 175 students.
IASCO has contracts with three Chinese airlines. 

Dinger said building a third runway has been a priority for years but talks
cooled when IASCO was put up for sale and there was a chance the business
could move out of Redding. 

"We then paused because we didn't want to expend energy ... in pursuing a
project we no longer needed," Dinger said. 

In May a group including former state Sen. Maurice Johannessen and past
Pepsi Cola distributor John Fitzpatrick, paid $3 million for the 53-year-old
firm, which has operated in Redding since 2009. The purchase ensures IASCO
will stay in Redding. 

Meanwhile, Lidell said business at the drag strip is good considering the
state of the economy. 

The strip, which Lidell says is the oldest continuously operating National
Hot Rod Association-sanctioned track in the U.S., attracts drivers from all
over Northern California. Redding Dragstrip's season runs from March through

Drivers pay $15 to race cars, trucks or motorcycles. Admission to watch is

"Tracks across the whole country are feeling it, like any other business
that is feeling the (economic) crunch," Lidell said. "There is not as much
expendable money and drag racing is a hobby."

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