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on Aug 8, 2014
So now the Public Works Department is going to manage the Airport and Federal grants? I sincerely hope that turns out better than the Mitchell Library project..........
It is a great thing for Palo Alto to have an airport and manage it.
Aviation is the future for innovation and innovative mind of our great community.
And the city can hire more people for sweeping the airport. Narrowing the street and expanding the sidewalk ... When they run out of money, we're the first to know. Stay tune
This is a disaster in the making. This airport has never been profitable, and will always need a subsidy from one source or another.
> Aviation is the future for innovation and innovative
> mind of our great community.
According to the FAA, there have never been fewer General Aviation pilots in this country than at the present. There are many reasons--mostly the high cost of flying, coupled with the inherent danger to the pilot, passengers, and people on the ground, has done a lot to quell the taste for owning/flying private planes.
The Palo Alto Airport does not service the people of Palo Alto. At a recent inventory of "tie-downs", only about 25% of those leasing space were Palo Alto residents. The rest were from surrounding counties--who do not contribute much in the way of supporting the tax base of the County.
The City will soon become liable for the crashes that occur with some regularity at this airport. Most of the crashes are pilot error. Yet, the City will not have the power to ban irresponsible pilots from using the airport.
For the most part, the residents of Palo Alto are powerless to deal with pilots where violate FAA rules. Moreover, the City will not be able to pass ordinances that contravene FAA rules. Lastly, the FAA doesn't seem to care much about the safety of people on the ground--given that their main role is to be an advocate for aviation.
This adventure will end badly.
I have some experience as an 'Incident Manager' for Boeing IT Infrastructure 2002-2008 - part-time job I held.
It is good to have control over a local airport and I do not agree with some concerns you have
a. god forbid disasters such as earth quakes, flood and national emergencies.
b. Ability transport hospital patients and other to the nearest safe locations.
c. act of war or terrorists.
We can manage not messing up in peace time. We can argue about it until cows come home.
But, when there is a natural disaster, we need leadership and airport access. This is what I have learned on the job about incidents and disaster recovery. I covered 10 southwester sites; El Segundo, Seal Beach, Long Beach, Anaheim, Canoga Park, El Paso, Ogden Utah, Heath Ohio, Denver, Co. It gets crazy.
> I have some experience as an 'Incident Manager'
> for Boeing IT Infrastructure 2002-2008 - part-time job I held.
And what, pray tell, would this experience have to do with small aircraft crashes associated with the Palo Alto Airport? Dropping buzzwords really isn’t helpful in discussions like these.
> It is good to have control over a local airport and
> I do not agree with some concerns you have
Why is it good to have control of a local airport that generally caters to non-residents.
> god forbid disasters such as earth quakes, flood and national emergencies.
God does not have anything to do with earthquakes, floods or national emergencies. What is your point?
> Ability transport hospital patients and other to the nearest safe locations.
This is an oft-repeated mantra about this airport, but the number of patients were are transported through this airport is not very large. Stanford has plenty of space on its campus to set up a small, emergency, airstrip, and there is a heliport on the roof of the current hospital.
During the big earthquake of 1989, there was little evidence of anyone’s being transported into/out of the PA airport.
> act of war or terrorists.
And your point is?
The crash of the Tesla employee a couple of year ago demonstrated how one pilot’s actions could negatively impact the who community. Whether the man was irresponsible, cocky, or suffered from a mechanical malfunction seems to have eluded the crash investigation. The fact that he was able to take off under IFR was allowed by a vote of the City Council, many years ago. It’s really difficult to believe that any elected officials really know much about the dangers of running an airport—particularly since they have sovereign immunity to hide behind when their decisions go wrong.
> I don’t have any concerns about running this airport
The finances of the airport have always been questionable. At the time it was taken over by the County, it was about to go out of business. Presumably, your knowledge of the airport’s finances is minimal, and your concern as a possible City Council member seems to reflect your knowledge of this airport’s history.
There have been hundreds of complaints, over the years, about irresponsible pilots, noise, and environmental disruption by people who are not Palo Alto residents. Presumably you are saying that as a Council Member their concerns are of no interest to you?
Palo Alto airport is a community/county/regional amenity. I don't care one little bit who runs it, but hope that it can be run well.
It is an amenity just like Caltrain and 101 are amenities and we don't assume that all using them are all Palo Alto residents or even Palo Alto workers.
Who cares where the people using the airport live? Who cares where people using the golf course live? Or who uses the Baylands for a hike live?
The point is that we have the airport and if we are wise we will reap the benefits of this. We need to attract the users of the airport to spend money in Palo Alto. There is nothing near the airport that can be called an amenity to airport users. There is no restaurant, hotel or even anywhere to buy a cup of coffee in that part of town. People arriving at the airport probably just drive out of Palo Alto to wherever, rather than spending money in town.
Let's get the airport to be efficiently run and at the same time welcome the users by providing them with some support services and amenities.
I hear you. You have some great points that we all need to take into consideration.
I am sticking to my thought process, for now; can change later that having this airport access and management of it will burden 'Palo Alto' governance.
I will leave it for the disaster management experts to plan for our 'Palo Alto residents + our surrounding neighbors'.
I hope you will be 'open minded' too and hear it from the experts.
Thank you Bob for your common sense comments.
To me, the PA airport has seemed like a playground for the rich. Lessons are offered there, with planes droning around in circles landing and taking off. There are definite risks to having this general aviation so close nearby. If you are new and don't know about the Tesla disaster, we sure knew when our power was cut and we learned of the crash in East Palo Alto, which was bad, unnecessary and could have been even worse.
What exactly are the benefits to nearby residents like me?! I see the red helicopter occasionally overhead (flies out from Stanford to rescue people and returns to Stanford, I don't believe it has any use for Palo Alto Airport), so medical evacuations aren't part of this airport from what I've seen.
Also, I thought the Baylands were a "nature preserve." The noise is an annoying form of pollution for humans and wildlife. How about removing the airport and redirecting private pilots to San Carlos and San Jose. Seems unwise for the city of Palo Alto to enter the "airport business."
re: planning for disasters for PA and surrounding neighboring cities: well, what about the huge Moffett Field and the huge runway there - surely that is far more prominent and useful in case of a large regional disaster such as a major earthquake. I hardly think the Palo Alto airport will play a major role in disaster relief.
The PA airport has always been and will be until we close it down a playground for mostly non residents. It has always been a major source of noise and air pollution. It has also been a spectacular money loser. Instead of getting rid of this abomination, the city is taking it over. Why? For what?
Having read Bob's comments, I certainly agree with the points he raises more so than the ones that airport manager Andrew Swanson does.
My husband and I play our weekly round together at the next-door Palo Alto Golf Course, so we often see the airport and its traffic.
Even with a per-day average nearly 500 takeoffs and landings (according to this article), there are weekdays that I've seen when it seems to have hardly any air traffic at all.
To spend taxpayer money to hastily take it over (in the hopes of snagging a one-time federal grant), then spend more taxpayer money to fix the runway, and continue to spend taxpayer money to operate it at a loss, is throwing good money after bad.
It's a failure of a proposition to this city resident and taxpayer. A 'visioning' process is going to turn this around.
I only know two plane owners who keep their small planes at the PA airport. One lives in Los Altos Hills, the other in Portola. Neither one of them has ever said anything good about the PA airport, other than it's convenient.
And once FAA negotiations and fixed-base operator negotiations get thrown into the mix, PA city staff are going to be even further set on their heels, as they simply don't have experience in these areas and will have to spend tax dollars on outside consultants to help them.
That's why "The Shadow Knows"'s jibe in the first comment cuts so deep: the ongoing, nearly half-decade long, black mark that is the mismanagement of the Mitchell Park library renovation really throws a black cloud over any efforts by city staff to branch out into new management territory.
As for commenters suggesting that we trust 'experts', that's a time-honored ruse. These so-called experts are simply individuals who are paid to promote the direct interest of owners, operators, and users of the airport.
Experts who would look at the bottom-line costs and come to the clear conclusion that owning the airport is a bad idea for Palo Alto will not be heard from or listened to in this process.
ALL of the aircraft based at Palo Alto Airport pay taxes based on their CURRENT value - which is almost always more than their original selling price.
As the owner of the airport Palo Alto will be able to set the amount of liability insurance that each plane must have and the city will be named as a co-insured at ZERO cost to the city. A pilot with a bad operating history or bad health history will not be able to get the necessary insurance at any reasonable price.
The airport is of economic value to the city and the risks can be easily managed.
You seem to have a very superficial understanding of this issue for someone who was in the aviation industry.
Palo Alto will not "have" an airport. Palo Alto will inherit a Airport Improvement Grant (AIP) with the transfer of the airport, so for most practical purposes it will be the FAA that "has" an airport.
Palo Alto will have little to no control over most aspects of the airport important to the residents of Palo Alto. If you want to understand Airport Improvement Grants... think ABAG for airports. It is a way for the federal government to squash local democratic control of municipal property.
Read the article above. Santa Clara County got in trouble with the FAA for something as petty as rejecting a skydiving application! Imagine the federal government micromanaging this level of detail.
"Aviation fuel is largest source of lead emissions in the U.S."
Aviation Impact Reform ~ October 15, 2012 Web Link
As owner of the airport Palo Alto will have significantly more control over both the benefits and the risks of the airport than it does now.
So now my tax money will fund an airport? Enough is enough.
Your tax dollars don't fund AN airport... they fund ALL airports.
"Your tax dollars don't fund AN airport... they fund ALL airports."
If our taxes fund ALL airports, what's the point of having one city "own" an airport.
Almost all of the funds for the airport come from the users in the form of tie-down fees and gasoline taxes. Plus resident aircraft pay property taxesH
"tie-down fees and gasoline taxes."
So who collects these, how are they used?
Does the city make extra money from the airport, or have to come up with shortfalls?
What if the airport gets sued, is there insurance or liability costs?
"What if the airport gets sued, is there insurance or liability costs?" Yes, lots of insurance.
""tie-down fees and gasoline taxes."
So who collects these, how are they used?"
Tie-downs fees will be paid to the city.
Aviation fuel taxes go to the Federal government and are then used to fund 90% of the costs of airport improvements.
Would Palo Alto be able to reject a sky diving application? Would Palo Alto be able to ban the sale of the leaded aviation fuel that is poisoning the kids in East Palo Alto, and everyone else within one kilometer of PAO?
"Leaded Fuel a Thing of the Past—Unless You Fly a Private Plane"
Mother Jones ~ January 10, 2013 Web Link
"Would Palo Alto be able to reject a sky diving application?"
Probably given that PAO is directly under the SFO Class B airspace and skydiving is generally prohibited in Class B airspace. Skydivers and commercial jets don't mix well.
"Would Palo Alto be able to ban the sale of the leaded aviation fuel that is poisoning the kids in East Palo Alto, and everyone else within one kilometer of PAO?"
As Jetman well knows leaded aviation fuel is being phased out and is also a very small contributor to surface level lead levels. Leaded house paints in East Palo Alto area are a dramatically more serious problem
If money is patchworked here and there, the City can't make money from it, sounds like a lot of responsibility and more like running a gas station for the somebody else.
Substantiate your claim that lead paints are a worse problem in EPA, than lead from aviation. I think you are just making that canard up out of whole cloth to support the continued use of leaded fuel. The FAA does not plan to begin the the phase out of leaded fuel until 2025, and is way behind schedule. Imagine that... a federal bureaucracy behind schedule?
"Aviation fuel is largest source of lead emissions in the U.S."
Aviation Impact Reform ~ October 15, 2012 Web Link
It is not possible for me to get my head around that people are willing allow the environment to be polluted with lead. Is any amount of money or short lived pleasure worth that?
"Sources of Lead
A child's environment is full of lead. Children are exposed to lead from different sources (such as paint, gasoline, solder, and consumer products) and through different pathways (such as air, food, water, dust, and soil). Although there are several exposure sources, lead-based paint is the most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure for young children.
Sources of lead exposure include:
"Sources of lead exposure include:
and leaded fuel?
"and leaded fuel?"
Aviation fuel is not even on CDC's list because it occurs only at very low levels.
Why does the plan to eliminate lead from airplane fuel require a "phase out"?
According to the EPA Web Link in the link Jetman posted.
"Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead. Exposures to low levels of lead
early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory, and behavior. There is
no identified safe level of lead in the body.
• On October 15, 2008, EPA substantially strengthened the national ambient air quality
standards (NAAQS) for lead, finding that serious health effects occur at much lower
levels of lead in blood than previously identified."
This doesn't sound good.
"Why does the plan to eliminate lead from airplane fuel require a "phase out"?
For the same reason that it took decade to eliminate lead from automotive fuel. Engines had to be changed and refineries and distribution system had to be changed. It was not possible to simply force most of the automobiles designed for leaded fuel off the roads.
"1. History of the U.S. Lead Phasedown
Refiners in the United States started adding lead compounds to gasoline in the 1920s in order to boost octane levels and improve engine performance by reducing engine ‘knock’ and allowing higher engine compression.1 Lead was used because it was inexpensive for boosting octane relative to other fuel additives (i.e., ethanol and other alcohol-based additives), and because people were ignorant of the dangers of lead emissions, which include mental retardation and hypertension. The reduction in lead in gasoline in the United States came in response to two main factors: (1) the mandatory use of unleaded gasoline to protect catalytic converters in all cars starting with the 1975 model year; and (2) increased awareness of the negative human health effects of lead, leading to the phasedown of lead in leaded gasoline in the 1980s."
"By the early1980s gasoline lead levels had declined about 80% as a result of both the regulations and the fleet turnover (Nichols 1997)."
It was not until January 1996 that lead additives in motor vehicle gasoline were prohibited.
See below for the full report:
What would be an estimate of how many PAO customers fly airplanes which are designed only for leaded fuel?
I would think that after the automobile phase out, there would have already been advances in aircraft.
"There are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that rely on 100 low lead avgas for safe operation. It is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains the addition of TEL"
Makes no sense - the US is apparently one of the few countries still using leaded fuel, but the EPA is still trying to decide if it has a position on the matter, and airplanes appear to be the main dinosaurs.
Why wait until every airplane engine can handle unleaded, and not require newer planes to use unleaded?
from a Huffington post article
"The U.S. is one of the few countries that still uses leaded gas," Froines said. "This is an important issue."
Still, the EPA is holding off on taking any regulatory action on avgas, which would begin with an endangerment finding -- that is, a declaration of an environmental health threat. .......
The EPA intends to decide whether to make an endangerment finding by mid-to-late 2015, the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the agency is also "carefully reviewing" the environmental health groups' petition.
You have not provided any substantiation of you claim that lead paint is a bigger problem in East Palo Alto than leaded aviation fuel. What you have provide so far, are merely unquantified rationalizations, not substantiation.
Do you understand the difference? I think you do, but provide rationalizations instead of substantiation, because you cannot substantiate your claim (because you just made it up).
"Aviation fuel is largest source of lead emissions in the U.S."
Aviation Impact Reform ~ October 15, 2012 Web Link
From an article in General Aviation News about lead-free mogas:
10 Mogas Myths:
Myth #1 – Gasoline used in airplanes is unsafe. Fact – International standard ASTM D4814 is used for both fuel production and engine TC/STC certification. Mogas has been an FAA-approved aviation fuel since the 1980s and has had an excellent safety record.
"10 Mogas myths"
General Aviation News ~ March 16, 2011 Web Link
The EPA has been studying lead emissions at general aviation airports, and POA is not doing very well:
0.33 ug/m^3 (San Carlos, CA)
0.17 ug/m^3 (McClelland, CA)
0.12 ug/m^3 (Palo Alto, CA)
0.09 ug/m^3 (Reid-Hillview, CA)
0.07 ug/m^3 (Gillespie, CA)
0.07 ug/m^3 (Merril, AK)
0.06 ug/m^3 (Van Nuys, CA)
0.06 ug/m^3 (Auburn, WA)
0.04 ug/m^3 (Deer Valley, AZ)
0.03 ug/m^3 (Brookhaven, NY)
0.03 ug/m^3 (Stinson, TX)
0.02 ug/m^3 (Harvey, WA)
0.01 ug/m^3 (Republic, NY)
At 0.12 ug/m^3 Palo Alto Airport is only 0.02 below the EPA's limit of 0.15 ug/m^3. Even a small increase in activity at PAO could push PAO over the limit.
Why are all of the California airports so high on the list? Could it be related to the relative availability of lead-free aviation fuel in California?
EPA Airport Lead Monitoring Program Update: Web Link
Maybe it's a good idea to add more lead to the environment. Along with the increasing flights into SFO, the nightmare traffic,idling delivery trucks, and other pollutant sources-sparkling Palo Alto has the shadow side of attracting more and planet warming and carcinogenic substances to its environment.
Maybe Palo Alto's helping man be off the planet the sooner the better is the best thing possible for the rapidly warming earth!
Jetman-Do you think FAA approval makes it a good thing? Have you noticed the FAA approved insane flight tracks over Palo Alto?
"Mogas has been an FAA-approved aviation fuel since the 1980s and has had an excellent safety record."
> As owner of the airport Palo Alto will have significantly more
> control over both the benefits and the risks of the airport
> than it does now.
There are no easily proven benefits other than to the small user group that has been subsidized by the taxpayers at this airport for far too long.
While the City may have some “control”—what does that mean? Virtually everything that goes on at the airport is controlled ultimately by the FAA. Moreover, the City Council is a group of people with no experience (generally) in running a for-profit operation. Their control of the Utility is a prime example. When it became clear that there was corruption in the Utility, the Council did not address the problem—but sat like a bump on a log, waiting for the matter to “go away”.
When the Tesla employee crashed into the main power feed for Palo Alto—putting the City into darkness for the most of a business day—the Council did not do anything. Moreover, the Utility refused to pay for losses to businesses that had to throw away perishable products—like ice cream. The Utility claimed it didn’t have any responsibility to provide power to the Community, although it is the only utility that is currently allowed to operate within the municipal boundaries. Will the airport assume any of the damages caused by pilots flying in/out of this facilty. It's really hard to believe that it will.
And then there is the issue of insurance. The County never required very much in the way of insurance. When the Tesla pilot killed himself, and his friends, it turned out that his airplane was owned by a shell corporation which had no assets. This man, sadly now dead, could not be expected to take on the financial obligations of this actions, nor could his corporation. The matter apparently has been settled, outside of court, with the public’s having no access to the details of the financial settlement. Again, the Palo Alto City Council was silent about this tragedy.
This will happen again—and you can make bet on it that no one on the Council will ever speak in public about the Council’s obligations to keep the public safe from this sorts of incidents. Nor will anyone on the Council ever speak to the issue of adequate insurance for pilots to cover damages on the ground beyond the boundaries of the airport.
> City has control of the airport
The following is an example of how the City will probably NOT exercise control of this facility.
It’s common knowledge that 85% of all small place crashes are pilot error. Many of these errors involve the use of alcohol, and increasingly, drugs. When planes crash at/around the Palo Alto airport (sometimes they go into the bay), the police are routinely called. However, the police do not routinely require pilots to take field sobriety tests, like they do when a vehicle operator crashes his/her vehicle.
The police are somewhat of an independent entity in Palo Alto. But it’s pretty much a sure bet that they will not begin to detain pilots after a crash, and demand either a field sobriety test, or a blood alcohol test.
> Aviation fuel taxes go to the Federal government and are then used
> to fund 90% of the costs of airport improvements.
Can you cite your sources? Typically, these sorts of taxes go into the general fund. Are you saying that there is a targeted fund that collects aviation fuel taxes? Can you provide a link to the FAA where this can be verified.
Now--the FAA has, in the past, actually provided some data on AvGas use. As it turns out, the amount of AvGAS used in the US is actually not all that great, compared to other fuels. That means that the amount of money collected via AvGas taxes isn't that great (given the very large FAA budget).
Moreover, tracking expenditures for GA airport improvements is not traightforward, and could provide almost impossible for people not intimately involved with FAA internal processes. Frequently, the revenue streams for airport improvement comes from multiple sources--not just funds that might originate via AvGas taxes.
I don't know the exact number but I'll go along with your 85% pilot error statistic. But where do you get the idea that there are so many drunk pilots? Please point to even one NTSB accident report near PAO where the pilot was drunk.
The Airport and Airway Trust Fund is partially funded by excise taxes on aviation fuels:
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is funded primarily by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Trust Fund or AATF) which receives revenues from a series of excise taxes paid by users of the national airspace system — and by the General Fund. The Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970 created the Trust Fund to provide a dedicated source of funding for the aviation system independent of the General Fund.
The Trust Fund's purpose was to establish sources of funding that would increase concurrently with the use of the system, and assure timely and long-term commitments to capacity increases. The Trust Fund was designed to finance investments in the airport and airway system and, to the extent funds were available, cover the operating costs of the airway system as well.
Trust Fund revenues are derived from excise taxes on:
Domestic airline passenger tickets
Domestic airline passenger flight segments
International passenger arrivals and departures
Air cargo waybills
Amounts paid for the right to provide mileage awards"
> what happens if the airport is sued ..
While the airport does have insurance .. this insurance does not cover the damages caused by pilots once they have left the airport. This insurance is generally to cover property damage caused by insufficiently insured pilots who cause damage to the airport. It’s not clear if these sorts of policies cover damage to private property of other pilots (ie their aircraft) if these aircraft are damaged on the ground. Also not clear who is responsible for damage from vandals, or the levee breaking.
Pilots do often sue the airports where they store their planes. The following is an example of a recent suit at the Glendale, AZ airport--
Interesting that these pilots believe that the taxpayers have an obligation to subsidize not only their airplane storage, but all of their personal property too.
Seems to me that an aircraft is a vehicle and the police could do sobriety tests after an accident if they felt the situation warranted one.
Yes, PA could do more positive strategies in running the airport. I hope they will, but I have my doubts. Unless a first class person is in charge of running the airport, nothing much will change. Certainly at present there is nobody with the right experience. As much as I don't like the idea of hiring new senior people, I think this is one case where it is warranted. Getting the airport running efficiently, profitably, safely and innovatively are all good goals for this new phase in the airport's life. Promotions for air taxi services, sight seeing trips, and other businesses centered around the airport would bring in revenue to the airport and support services in the vicinity of the airport to the City itself.
We should be looking at this situation as an opportunity and grab it with all positive vibes. Instead of looking at this in a defeatist manner, we should be demanding a better run airport by our City staff and supporting them in the endeavor.
Peter Carpenter's [portion removed] claim was that 90% of the upgrades for GA airports come from AvGas taxes. Yet, he does not provide a link to the FAA's budgetary data that provides proof of that point. He provides a shotgun blast of sources from the FAA that includes AvGAS taxes, as well as the seemingly bottomless Federal General Fund!
No one ever discounted the fact that AvGAS taxes are collected, and go into the running of the FAA. The claim that AvGAS was virtually the total source of airport upgrade funds is being challenged.
Peter Carpenter has failed to make his point.
In real life terms, the city doesn't own the airport. The airport, for all intent and purposes is owned by the FAA. The city makes sure that the FAA gets the land the airport sits on for free. In plain English, the residents of Palo Alto are subsidizing what is largely a playground for non residents. Even if the airport started miraculously making a profit, it would not go into the general fund, but will have to be reinvested in the airport. A terrible deal anyway you look at it, even before a close examination of the pollution, noise and danger to the surrounding communities.
[Portion removed.] I provide more original source information than does any other poster.
"What Is the Airport Improvement Program?
The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) provides grants to public agencies — and, in some cases, to private owners and entities -- for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).
How Much of the Project Cost Does the Grant Cover?
For large and medium primary hub airports, the grant covers 75 percent of eligible costs (or 80 percent for noise program implementation). For small primary, reliever, and general aviation airports, the grant covers a range of 90-95 percent of eligible costs, based on statutory requirements."
" These programs were funded from a newly established Airport and Airway Trust Fund, into which were deposited revenues from several aviation-user taxes on such items as airline fares, air freight, and aviation fuel."
"Federal Fuels Taxes
The Federal government levies a 19.3 cent per gallon tax on the aviation gasoline used by piston-powered propeller aircraft (Avgas) and a 21.8 cent per gallon tax on jet fuel (Jet A). This tax goes directly to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, with 1/10 of one cent going to environmental protection and cleanup programs."
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