Monday, February 23, 2009

Defendnig the Little Airport that Could

Back in July 2008, I asked city leaders to not mess with the fledgling success at Tracy Municipal Airport.

Why? Because it could be one of the city's few economic bright spots when times are tough. Following Saturday's lead story in the Tracy Press, I can only repeat the call.

The centerpiece of Skyview Aviation's development plan for the airport — the manufacture of light sport planes — looks like it will indeed come to fruition. Combined with city airport management's in-the-works plan to expand hangar space at the perpetually full flypad, it seems Tracy is blessed with the Little Airport that Could.

Those who want this success story to continue — and others like it to begin — should be concerned with the residential development that will soon surround the airport.

The Ellis subdivision approved for just northwest of the flypad is not endangered by the airport, as far as I can tell. (If you've ever driven through San Jose on Interstate 880 or visited San Diego, you'll see why the safety concern is less dire than some would make it seem.) Rather, it is the airport that is endangered by Ellis.

The danger is not that the airport now will not be able to physically expand. Look at a Google Earth shot of Tracy Municipal and you'll see that its prospects for runway expansion of are bleak to begin with.

The danger is that residents of Ellis will raise a clamor about planes flying over their McMansions and the airport will have its operations severely curtailed to mollify the homeowners. Choked to death. City leaders both now and in the future cannot allow that to happen if Tracy is to shake its reputation as a city built for housing only.

The airport is a rare homegrown business success. Ellis will eventually be a reality. There's no reason the two can't coexist.

And if they can't, the city's vitality demands that the former take precedence over the latter.

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