Checking the flight path
by Jon Mendelson / Tracy Press
Oct 21, 2011 | 3188 views | 12 12 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A plane comes in for a landing at Tracy Municipal Airport, which will likely see several upgrades. Press file photo
A plane comes in for a landing at Tracy Municipal Airport, which will likely see several upgrades. Press file photo
If the Tracy airport is going to realize its untapped potential, it’s going to need a longer runway, pilots and businessmen said during and after a Tuesday meeting to explore airport improvements.

Though a runway extension wasn’t one of the 37 short- and medium-term improvements brainstormed by city staff, concerned citizens and the Transportation Advisory Commission that were presented to the City Council this week, local aviation and business people repeatedly cited expansion as a linchpin for economic growth.

“Tracy has the potential to have an airport that provides an economic engine here,” said Dave Anderson, vice president of the Tracy Airport Association.

That goal squares with the Boyd Report, a report done for the city that says the city’s main aim regarding its municipal airport should be to increase income and ensure its sustainability.

Anderson and Richard Ortenheim, director of Skyview Aviation, which has a home at the Tracy airport, said that lengthening the runway would open the airport to more types of traffic, and even the possibility of landing and housing corporate jets, many of which can’t fly into Tracy Municipal because the runways aren’t long enough to satisfy Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

If the main runway were 600 feet longer than its 4,000-foot span, Ortenheim said, the percentage of corporate jets the airport could host would jump from about 30 percent to about 70 percent.

“From a regional standpoint, you’re going to have to lengthen the runways there,” agreed Dana Parry, one of four developers working to turn Cordes Ranch into a state-of-the-art business park, in answer to a question later in the evening by Councilman Steve Abercrombie. “Long-term, there are very few opportunities in the Bay Area to house corporate jets.”

Tracy could miss out on filling that economic niche if it doesn’t act quickly, said Anderson, who added that the Byron airport could usurp Tracy’s position as a popular Central Valley flypad.

“There’s a very small window of opportunity to grasp that,” Anderson said.

Mayor Brent Ives agreed that economic development is at the heart of any conversation regarding the airport. He said a study of the airport’s present and possible economic impact might provide more impetus to act.

“If there’s ever going to be a driver, that’s probably going to be the one to take it to action,” Ives said.

Parks and Recreation Director Rod Buchanan confirmed that the city has never conducted a measure of the airport’s economic influence, but said Thursday that such research would give decision-makers more information about how to best shape the airport.

“It would allow the evaluation and analysis of what the optimum airport structure would be in order to support optimal economic development,” Buchanan said.

Aside from the possibility of expansion, Anderson and others said the best thing the city can do to support the airport is to immediately resurface the existing runways.

“The most important that they could help with, of the proposals on the tables, would be repairing the surface of the runway,” said the president of the TAA, John Favors, in an interview this week. “This would give (the airport) economic viability.”

The surface, laid down in 2007, is in poor repair, according to a January California Department of Transportation inspection. Favors and other pilots say the bad seal damages planes and keeps away potential business.

“(If it’s repaired) we can get aircraft in there that currently are reluctant to come in, because of the runway,” Favors continued, “and that will bring in fuel for the city.”

Investigating what it would take to patch or permanently repair the runway was one of the many priorities presented to the council. Buchanan also told the council finding out if the 2007 seal was improperly laid will be part of that investigation.

He added that the next step is to map out time lines for the various improvements reviewed by the council, including the runway surface, economic report and determining the actual length of the runways, something Buchanan said has been fairly controversial.

Some pilots have suggested the city has purposefully shortened the runways, possibly in an attempt to make it easier to use surrounding land for development.

“The city’s artificially shortening the length of the runway,” said Jose Suez, who keeps a plane at Tracy Municipal Airport.

Buchanan, however, insisted the city is doing everything it can to maximize the runway pavement that can be used while staying within safety requirements.

“We’re not intending on shortening it for any reason,” he said. “(We want to) maximize available pavement length. The plan doesn’t have anything to do with shortening the runway.”

The city’s official tally is uncertain enough that measuring the main runway was part of two separate short-term goals presented Tuesday. (Another plans to measure the secondary airstrip.)

While those and many other improvements were discussed, significant expansion to the main runway — there are two at the airport — in its present configuration looks all but impossible.

The airport is hemmed on the southwest by the Delta-Mendota Canal, at the east by Tracy Boulevard, and to the north by Linne Road and industrial development.

One key to unlock that set of geographic handcuffs could be moving the airport, an option the city plans to look into.

But Favors said that would negate a feature that sets Tracy Municipal Airport apart from other valley airports. Even during winter fogs, Favors said, Tracy is usually open, because of the mountains to the west.

“The location of this airport was intentional. When the rest of the valley is fogged in … Tracy has the ability to bring aircraft in,” he said. “We move from this location, we lose something that provides us a tremendous advantage.”

Instead, Favors suggested a different tack: Rotate the main runway 20 degrees to the west.

“Shifting the runway gives the space to increase the length to approximately 4,600 feet,” Favors said, and also eliminates center-crossovers on the tarmac, which he said would greatly increase airport safety.

Aside from the work and possible disruption to flight that would involve, there’s a big hurdle to Favors’ concept: money.

Though Buchanan called it “a great idea,” he said finding a way to pay for such an intensive project could be a lengthy process.

“That idea, as well as others, has to go through the vetting process with the FAA to see if it even qualifies for funding,” Buchanan said.

At least one member of the transportation commission, though, said ideas about shifting the runway or moving the airport were too grand for the moment.

“I think right now that’s almost too visionary. That’s a good 10- to 20-year-out kind of look,” said Joseph Orcutt, adding that the short- and medium-term goals presented by the council are more immediately attainable.

But Councilman Robert Rickman thought now is a perfect time to think big.

“We need to look beyond the immediate,” Rickman said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 23, 2011
Tracy airport is a pit stop at best. People only fly in for the cheap gas nothing more. The proposed swim park would provide more economic value to Tracy instead of expanding the airport.

LOL @ Atari...A jet propelled crop duster would be wild to see.

October 22, 2011
HA HA HA yeah like an airport runway extension for jet propelled crop dusters.






October 22, 2011

Now I will say straight up, like I did before, in my opinion Tracy missed th boat fer significant Tracy Airport expansion way back in th early 1980s when th land was more rural an available. That condition no longer exists so th only sensible place fer longer runways is over at New Jerusalem.

Tracy is geographically in one of th most ideal places ta position itself as th transportation center fer th Bay Area an North Central California.

Tracy has rail access, interstate access, available land an, if developed properly freight/air passenger access that would bring jobs, read money, inta Tracy an really place it on th map.

Now I am not talkin a measly little 4 or 5 thousand foot runway. Nope, if yer gonna do it make it at least 12 to 15 thousand feet. In todays technology ILS approaches can easily be done in complete fog an th weather is good enough ta accommodate VFR landins th majority of th time.

Freight could attach ta rail an truck/interstate traffic an passenger service could easily be used via expansion of ACE an rail transportation ta serve not only th surroundin areas but th Bay Area as well whair airport expansion has gone just about as fer as it can go.

Can all of this be done at once? Nope it can't. But with a vision an a plan it can be done in twenty years or so an Tracy would be th community ta benefit an reap th rewards th most.

Oh but it would destroy farm land. Ok that's right, it would. But that's gonna happen anyway an thair ain't nothin short of population control that's gonna stop that.

So ya really have two choices. Either develope New Jerusalem Airport inta somethang that will be beneficial ta Tracy an serve all of North Central California as a major International Transportation Hub, badly needed, or let some other nearby community do it an loose out on all th jobs an finances that come with th picture.

Th choice is up ta th people of Tracy. They had that choice once with th current Tracy Airport back in th early 1980's an passed it up. That development is no longer feasible. But th New Jerusalem Airport is a plumb ripe fer th pickin an has a lot more potential.

Private small plane aviation can still an will remain fer th Tracy Airport an that can keep it up, runnin an healthy.

Nah, just ferget th whole thang, th entire community clamors about more jobs with sustainable incomes an higher revenues flowin inta thair community fer community development an services but it's plain ta see that most people just are not all that interested.

Oh well, then someone else will probably do it like Patterson an th 15.000 foot runways that were abandoned by th military that could be used ta develop a major transportation facility ta serve north central California's grownin transportation needs.
October 22, 2011

Might I suggest ya turn off yer Atari, which is rather old gamin technology, an welcome yerself ta reality.

Ya write, "Anybody see an interstate out by the airport?"

Now close da ya want? Slightly over one mile away. 1.22 miles ta be precise. It's called Interstate 580 and it runs west of th airport.

While buildin th runway over a canal, see similar structures in th Denver an th Dallas/Fort Worth airports, is possible that would bring th end of that runway ta about 1.14 miles away frum th Interstate.

Furthermore, it wouldn't do much as th preponderance of landins an takeoffs are done frum th other runway an that would place more air traffic, read possible aircraft crash disasters, ta urban Tracy.

Additionally, th land necessary ta purchase frum private landowners is more expensive simply because of its close proximity ta urban Tracy an Interstate 580.

Land around New Jerusalem is much cheaper further away from urban development, on flat ground an over two miles away frum Interstate 5. Additionally, expansion of these runways would not encroach on any urban development or th Interstate.


October 21, 2011
The Jerusalem airport is already there so there is no point in building over a interstate that don't really exist. Boo! Hah!

By the way. What's an interstate anyway? Isn't it be like where there is like transportation to an airport? Jack Daniel?

Ha. Anybody see an interstate out by the airport? I didn't think so. Whatever that is.

Build an airport over a water canal out in the middle of nowhere. Is that like a highs peed rail out in the middle of the mojave dessert.

What a crackerjack. Too funny. Jet set and nowhere to go. Hot diggity dog. You boys is buzzing like a honeybee on catnip.

ROTFLMAO tonight.

Airport in the water canal.

Ha. Whatever floats your airplane.







October 21, 2011

But I am 100% certain that most won't like th idea of developin New Jerusalem taday just like they failed ta see th vision of development of th Tracy Airport back in th 1980's. So it's probably just best ta forget both all tagether an concentrate on spendin our money on some other project that will have a greater impact on our economy.

Funny, Tracy geographically is th center of all Transportation for anythang movin in or out of th Bay Area an yet can't seem ta capitalize on that geographic fact. Properly developed Tracy could easily have been th transportation hub fer Northern California an everythang movein in an out of th Bay Area.

On well, ya can lead a horse ta water but ya can't make him drink.
October 21, 2011
Well ACTUALLY th airport has two 4,000 foot runways. One is runway 8/26 an runs 090 ta 270 degrees true which is exactly east/west. Th other is runway 12/30 an it runs 132 ta 312 degrees true or west by northwest and east by southeast.

Expansion of either by 600 feet, or two football field lengths, would require extensive modification ta three county roads an a number of privately owned properties livin an doin business thair fer decades. A better option would be ta develop th New Jerusalem flight facility as it sits further in th country whair th land around it has not been developed.

Tracy missed th boat on significant expansion of th Tracy Airport facilities way back in th late 1980s. No one then could see th benefit of significant airport development an taday's encroachment on th airport makes it a very expensive task, one virtually impossible in tadays economy, ta take on.

While thair ain't nothin much at New Jerusalem it does have development potential that is both doable, affordable an still within th sphere of influence of th City of Tracy an would remain under its control operated under th guidelines of the FAA.

October 21, 2011
Actually the runway does NOT run north/south. It runs east/west. It actually runs into county roads. If you wanted to expand the airport you could build an overpass.

I dont see the problem as "red tape". I see it as more of businesses that dont write a whitepaper. Why do businesses wait for county government to study the effects of building an overpass. It has state, federal, and county implications.

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