COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Let them fly!

The recent solo by Oceanside’s 16-year-old Kevin Williams (see story on page B5) illuminates how capable and focused our children can be in achieving lofty goals if given the right opportunities. Unfortunately, few Oceanside and local teens will have the opportunity to become a pilot, unless they go elsewhere for their training.
In 2003, a small group of airport neighbors filed suit against the city claiming they were being harmed by aircraft noise generated at the airport. That suit was quickly settled with an agreement that required the city to ban flight schools. The agreement, however, stipulated that the FAA would need to agree before the ban was enforced. The FAA quickly responded that Oceanside had no legal authority to restrict the use of an airport which was funded by the federal government. Despite the FAA position and without additional justification, city staff members decided to enforce a flight school ban.
Today the city enforces this policy for Oceanside Airport businesses only. Each day, dozens of small training airplanes from flight schools located elsewhere land and take off from Oceanside’s runway. (Our city has little recourse to shut down a business established in another city).
And while these “out-of-towners” use the Oceanside runway, the profits and taxes from training aircraft rentals, fuel sales, instructor fees, facility leases and maintenance work go into pockets and municipal accounts elsewhere.
Like the few residents who promoted the flight school ban, Kevin Williams’ family lives very near the airport and is subject to the same sounds and sights. But unlike those few (but very vocal) airport neighbors, the Williamses think that having an airport nearby is a “good thing.” And voter surveys indicate that an overwhelming majority of Oceanside residents agree with the Williamses.
For other teens like Kevin, having an accessible local airport, and earning a pilot’s license during high school,will open the doors to many future opportunities. According to Yale University Public Affairs Assistant Director Gila Reinstein, Yale admissions officers are impressed by applicants with perseverance, including those whose resumes are “jeweled” with accolades like a pilot’s license.
If you feel as I do, please contact members of the Oceanside City Council and urge them to lift the ban on flight schools at the Oceanside Airport. Let’s give those kids who look to the skies the same opportunities that others before them and those from other communities have had. Let them fly!

“For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”
Leonardo De Vinci

Andy Hansen is the vice president of the Oceanside Airport Association.

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