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"Camarillo Airport officials hope to boost operations, protect control tower"



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Camarillo Airport officials hope to boost operations, protect control tower
By Cheri Carlson        
The Ventura County (CA) Star

  
With three weeks to go, a campaign to boost Camarillo Airport flight
operations is about 8,600 comings and goings shy of its goal.

Airport officials want to break 150,000 takeoffs and landings by Sept. 30,
the end of the federal fiscal year. They hope that will protect Camarillo's
air traffic control tower by pushing operations over a bar set by federal
officials to determine possible tower closures.

"We're hoping that will be enough to get us off that list," said Todd
McNamee, Ventura County's director of airports.

Last year, the airport recorded about 145,000 takeoffs and landings, which
was below average for the general aviation airport and put its tower in
jeopardy.

In March, federal officials put the Camarillo and Oxnard Airport towers on a
long list of closures, citing the need to make sequestration cuts.

Most, including Oxnard's, are contract towers, run by third-party
contractors rather than Federal Aviation Administration staff, and were set
to close this summer.

However, they got a reprieve in May when Congress allowed the use of surplus
funds to keep the towers open through the end of the year.

Camarillo's FAA-staffed tower was not set to close until March, and whether
that could happen is still unclear.

Congress has not approved a 2014 budget, so the FAA does has no update on
future funding, Laura J. Brown, the agency's deputy assistant administrator
for public affairs, said last week.

With funding an unknown, county airport officials hope their campaign will
keep the tower out of jeopardy.

"I don't see Camarillo Airport without a tower," said George Hanna, a pilot
with Skydive Coastal. "Especially on the weekends - Saturdays and Sundays -
it gets too busy that it's impossible to operate safely without a tower."

On a Saturday, he makes about 20 takeoffs and landings. At times, he has
been eighth in line for departure, waiting on five to 10 aircraft coming in
to land.

Camarillo Airport officials told pilots and posted signs about the campaign
to boost operations to more than 150,000. They say that in the past few
months, operations have increased 10 percent to 15 percent.

While slightly less than 150,000 for the past two fiscal years, the
airport's five-year average of takeoffs, landings and approaches is 160,000,
according to an FAA report. Operations at the Oxnard Airport are
significantly lower.

Pilot Victor Haluska, in Camarillo last week, said he thinks the 150,000
cutoff makes sense and that an airport with less may not need a tower. It's
taxpayer money and should be used wisely, Haluska said.

Hundreds of small airports operate without controllers, including Santa
Paula's.

But Camarillo needs its tower, said Jim Taylor, a professional pilot and
aircraft manager. He has flown out of Camarillo for 10 years and said safety
is the biggest reason to keep the tower open. A closure also would have
financial effects, he said.


KAREN QUINCY LOBERG/THE STAR James Betker (left) and passenger Dmitriy
Filchenko fly into the Camarillo Airport for lunch at the Waypoint Cafe.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg, Karen Quincy Loberg 

KAREN QUINCY LOBERG/THE STAR James Betker (left) and passenger Dmitriy
Filchenko fly into the Camarillo Airport for lunch at the Waypoint Cafe. 
  
"If it's not safe, then people are going to gravitate to an airport that has
an operating tower, perhaps, or somewhere else," said Taylor, a pilot for 38
years. "What that will do is take jobs from people who sweep container
floors to people who fuel the trucks to people who work in the tower."

Taylor said officials should look at each tower individually and examine the
surrounding airspace and traffic as well as the number of operations.
Camarillo and Oxnard airports share air space with the naval air station at
Point Mugu. Larger airports in the region also add traffic in the area,
Taylor said.

"There probably are dozens of towers you could close and still be able to
operate safely," he said. "Camarillo is not one."

On the Net: http://www.ventura.org/airports

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