Officials express support for Carlsbad airport improvements

Officials express support for Carlsbad airport improvements
Supervisor Bill Horn speaks favorably of the economic benefits of improving the McClellan-Palomar Airport at the County Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 25. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors formally received the feasibility study of improvements to McClellan-Palomar Airport at its Sept. 25 meeting, leaving questions about how the improvements would be incorporated and how the project would be funded.

“I think (improving the airport) would be a boom here. This is the future,” said Supervisor Bill Horn, citing the anticipated economic benefits for North County if the airport improvements are made.

The feasibility study proposed extending the airport’s runway by either 200 feet or 900 feet, which would allow heavier aircraft that can fly longer distances to take off from the airport.

Most aircraft from McClellan-Palomar Airport can fly nonstop to reach parts of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico with the current runway length of just under 4,900 feet. With a 200-foot runway extension, aircraft could carry enough fuel to fly across the entire U.S. and reach parts of Central America. With a 900-foot expansion, aircraft could fly nonstop to countries as far away as China.

The study also recommended changing material on the west end portion of the runway to enhance safety for aircraft stopping in emergency situations.

By receiving the study, the Board of Supervisors did not commit to implementing or financing any of the suggested improvements. Instead the study will be incorporated into the airport’s 2015 master plan, which will require the Board’s approval at a future date.

The FAA would cover most of the $25 million needed for the safety improvements of the west end portion of the runway.

Half of the approximately $70 million cost of a 900-foot runway extension would be eligible for funding from the FAA.

The remainder of the funds would have to come from local sources.

During the meeting, Horn, who represents most of North County, emphasized the potential economic benefit of the airport improvements.

According to the feasibility study, extending the runway would bring in an additional $163.2 million in revenues over 20 years.

Horn said that enabling international nonstop flights to travel in and out of McClellan-Palomar Airport could open up new opportunities for international investment in North County.

He mentioned that just recently he had met with an investment group from Shanghai, China that was interested in Carlsbad’s plethora of biotech companies, and said he would like to tell them that they could fly directly to Carlsbad in the near future.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall and San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond voiced their support for the study and the potential runway improvements at the meeting as well.

Hall said that with united support from North County cities on top of the Board of Supervisors’ approval, the airport enhancements would be more likely to obtain grant funding.

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