What is an Airport Master Plan and why is one needed?
The purpose of the Master Plan is to provide decision-makers a roadmap of the community and airport’s strategic vision for the airport that provides flexible options to meet the long-term needs of the community for the next 20 years. The last Master Plan was developed in 1997, and given the modernization of FAA Design and Safety Standards for airports, it is nearing the end of its useful life. Airport Master Plans consist of a report documenting existing conditions of the airport, a forecast of aviation activity, facility requirements (the airport’s needs based on the forecast and compliance with current FAA Design Standards for airports), development and evaluation of alternatives to meet those needs, and a flexible phasing plan for implementation. It is used as a planning and decision-making tool intended to complement other local and regional plans. Components of the Airport Master Plan are illustrated in an Airport Layout Plan (ALP), described below.
Why is the County recirculating the Master Plan PEIR?
On January 18, 2018, the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan Update and Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) were circulated for public review for 61 days concluding on March 19, 2018. After reviewing public comments received during the public review period, staff determined it was necessary to recirculate portions of the Draft PEIR, including Biology, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy, and several exhibits.
Recirculation is not uncommon with large projects, and it is a part of the process. If after public comments are reviewed and it is determined revisions and clarifications are needed, as in this case, the public has an opportunity to review and comment on the recirculated elements. This allows for a thorough public review process. For more information, click here.
How much will the proposed project cost?
The full project cost over 20-years is estimated to cost approximately $98 - 125 million. It is expected all proposed development will seek FAA grant funding or be financed through the County's Airport Enterprise Fund. The Airport Enterprise Fund is funded by airport lease revenue, fees paid by airport users and federal and state grants, not tax revenues.
Who makes the final decision on this project?
The County Board of Supervisors will ultimately review and consider for approval the final Master Plan document. The FAA, state and federal resource agencies, and state aviation officials will also evaluate the document from a technical standpoint. The ALP will be reviewed by the FAA for approval, and once specific improvements are identified for federal funding and proposed, environmental review shall commence under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Will this project allow more aircraft to operate from McClellan-Palomar?
Modest growth of aircraft use at the airport is expected over the next 20 years, whether or not the County enhances the airport's facilities, as described in the Master Plan. The airport is a Public Use Airport, so any member of the public can use the airport if they'd like. The County's main function is to ensure the airport remains safe and efficient.
What is an Airport Layout Plan and why do we need one?
An Airport Layout Plan (ALP) graphically depicts planned development at the airport within the 20-year planning period as determined in the Airport Master Plan. Each individual component of the Master Plan is shown on the drawing, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval of the ALP is required in order to be eligible for federal funding for airport improvements and maintenance under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.
What are the Master Plan alternatives being considered?
The Master Plan included eight alternatives, but only three were identified as viable. Five were rejected because they were in conflict with the identified master plan objectives. The three alternatives that remain include:
- Alternative 1 would have the airport remain at the current B-II design and would enhance safety where possible with the existing layout of the airport; or
- Alternative 6 would redesign the airport to a design to support C-III airplanes with Modified Compliance. This alternative's design would meet the current demand of the types of aircraft using the airport today and through the next 15 years or so and would need some design modifications that require FAA approval.
- Alternative 5 would redesign the airport to a design to support D-III airplanes with Modified Compliance. This alternative would meet future demand for the types of aircraft forecast to use the airport at the end of the planning cycle, and would need some design modifications that would require FAA approval.
Why did the Master Plan recommend the D-III Modified Compliance alternative?
The Master Plan's Preferred Alternative, D-III Modified Compliance, meets the stated objectives of the Master Plan and best satisfies the future needs of the airport for the full 20-year planning period. It maximizes safety improvements while better serving current operations, customers, and the community - all while staying within the existing airport footprint. The Preferred Alternative was selected after years of community outreach and input.
Will 737 or larger-type aircraft start using the airport after this
project is implemented?
No. None of the changes proposed in the Master Plan are intended to accommodate this size of aircraft. While the current and future proposed runway configurations could allow for a 737-type aircraft to take off and land, Palomar Airport does not currently have, and is not proposing ground facilities such as additional aircraft parking areas or adding significant terminal space that could accommodate commercial operations by large aircraft of this size.
Can D-III aircraft operate at the airport, even if it's a B-II facility?
Yes, C-II, C-III and D-III airplanes currently safely operate at McClellan-Palomar Airport. The FAA's airport reference codes (B-II, D-III, etc) do not restrict the type of aircraft that are able to operate at the airport. The pilot, not the County, determines whether an aircraft can land at the airport. The FAA, which controls the airport traffic control tower, grants permission to land. As ground-facilities manager of a public-use airport, the County does not have the ability to prevent certain classes of aircraft from using the airport. McClellan-Palomar Airport currently exceeds some of the B-II standards; for example, the runway is 150 feet wide. It also has precision landing equipment that makes the airport safer for landing during low-visibility weather conditions.
The proposed project alternative is titled "Modified
Compliance" - what does that mean?
There are two areas where minor adjustments to FAA standards will require FAA approval. To be in compliance with FAA D-III design standards at McClellan-Palomar Airport, FAA approval of the following two "Modifications of Standards" would be needed for the preferred project alternative:
- Runway 6/24 Runway Object Free Area (ROFA) would need to be modified. The ROFA is an area next to the runway that needs to be kept free of all objects not required for navigable use. The FAA standard is 800-feet (400-feet on both sides of the runway centerline). For the "Modified Standard" Alternatives this would be modified to 762-feet.
- Runway 6/24 Centerline to Aircraft Parking Area would need to be modified. This area needs to be kept free of all aircraft parking. The FAA standard of 500-feet south of the runway centerline would need to be modified to 493-feet.
How will the surrounding community be affected by airport noise in the future?
Master Plan anticipates that over time the types of aircraft using the airport will continue to trend from smaller, slower, lower propeller planes to quieter corporate business jets. In terms of noise impacts, corporate jets are quieter. Not only do they have quieter, more efficient engines, but they also descend into and ascend out of the airport area faster. Faster and steeper take offs and landings mean less ground-level noise, both in volume and duration. The Master Plan proposes a runway extension for departing aircraft, which allows them to get airborne sooner. There is a modest amount of growth forecast in aircraft take offs and landings, but operations are still expected to be 30% less than the peak number of aircraft operations experienced at the airport in 1999. Only the FAA can control airplanes in flight, but the County takes noise in the community seriously and has a dedicated full-time noise officer to assist with noise concerns. The County is expanding its noise monitoring program and will continue to work with and educate pilots on how best to minimize aircraft noise impacts.
How is aviation noise analyzed in the Program EIR?
There are three main criteria to analyzing aircraft noise. First, flight tracks (or flight paths) are analyzed to see where aircraft are flying. Second, the analysis includes which types of aircraft are using those flight tracks. And third, the frequency and time of day for the number of operations is included to identify how many operations are occurring. This information is gathered and entered along with runway dimensions and topography, and a noise contour is generated.
When measuring noise for airports in California, the standard is to use the federal requirement for 'Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL). The CNEL standard uses a 24-hour average measurement for the model. The noise from airport operations is measured for the whole day and night; and not just single events of a take-off or landing. Noise that occurs during the evening or night hours is weighted or penalized and counts more against the measurement. The 65 CNEL is the level in which noise impacts and land use compatibility are analyzed. If residential or other noise sensitive areas are at or above 65 CNEL, additional analysis is needed. For Palomar Airport, all residential areas are located outside the airport's 65 CNEL noise level boundary for both current and long-term conditions.
The Program EIR evaluated noise conditions in the vicinity of the airport using actual data collected from the calendar year 2016 to determine noise level exposures. The 2016 data is used as a baseline condition in the Program EIR. The report also looks at noise levels for 2036, based on the FAA model, using data from the Master Plan's long-term aviation forecast. When noise was modeled with the forecast for 2036, we found the noise contours have shrunk from those anticipated in the 1997 Master Plan. Noise contours are used for planning various land uses surrounding the airport by the City of Carlsbad and the Regional Airport Authority.
What are the traffic impacts of this project?
If commercial activity meets the long-term forecast, two intersections, Palomar Airport Road at Camino Vida Roble and at El Camino Real would experience more than a two second delay due to vehicle traffic. Therefore, traffic mitigation is proposed in accordance with the City of Carlsbad's methodology. Like any other proposed project, it is based on a fair-share payment, which is proportional to the project's traffic volume. The transportation improvements and exact dollar amount will be calculated in coordination with the City at the time the traffic impact occurs.
Is the County planning to have three million passengers a year at the airport?
No. The Master Plan's long-term aviation forecast studied the potential for up to 575,000 outbound passengers annually by the Year 2036, far less than John Wayne and Lindbergh Field, which currently serve more than 5 million and 10 million outbound passengers respectively each year. Palomar Airport has a limited aircraft parking ramp and passenger terminal space to accommodate commercial service at the level of larger airports.
What is the County doing to address the slopes along Palomar Airport
Road and El Camino Real?
The County is considering its options with respect to the landfill slope along this corridor. The existing terraced slopes that front the roadways on the south and east side of the airport are the outer boundaries of the inactive landfill, and are under specific obligations for maintenance. Restrictions on watering the slopes and limits to having deep rooted plants makes it difficult to have a nice landscaped appearance. We have seeded the slopes with a native seed mix and will continue to explore options to improve the appearance, but the Master Plan does not propose any changes to the slopes in the short term.
The Plan does include the long-term potential of needing additional pavement south of the runway. If the full runway extension gets built it would include installation of a retaining wall along the existing landfill slope facing Palomar Airport Road. The design of the wall will incorporate the City of Carlsbad's guidance to insure it's aesthetically appropriate.
What are the differences between the 200 foot and 600 foot runway extensions?
200 foot Runway Extension
- 5,097 foot total length
- Avoids landfill
- Entire current fleet would be able to take off with up to 60% of maximum take-off weight
- At current runway length, only 75% of fleet is able to operate at maximum take-off weight
600 foot (800 foot total) Runway Extension
- 5697 foot total length
- Significant portion built over landfill requiring stabilization
- Entire current fleet would be able to take off with up to 90% of maximum take-off weight
- Retaining wall needed east and south of runway extension
Why aren't the actions in the proposed master plan considered an expansion?
Expansion refers to enlargement of the airport's physical boundaries, not an extension of the runway or other changes within the existing footprint of the airport. All of the projects identified in the Master Plan, including the runway extension stay on the existing airport property and will be accomplished within the existing footprint.
How will commercial airline activity affect the community?
By the Year 2036, enhanced commercial service at Palomar Airport may provide convenience to 800 to nearly 1,600 daily North County residents by reducing drive times of traveling to Lindbergh, John Wayne, or LAX; and will add values to the region's vibrant business community. Commercial service at the highest level analyzed in the Master Plan (575,000 enplanements) accounts for less than 13% of the total aircraft operations forecasted in Year 2036.
Additional passenger service at the airport would increase the traffic in the surrounding area. The good news about traffic at an airport is that the activity is spread throughout the day; unlike typical businesses in the area that have morning and evening rush hours centered around a roughly 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule.
How will General Aviation (GA) aircraft on the North Ramp be accommodated?
If an alternative is selected that requires relocation of the runway, the North Ramp will remain available for GA aircraft parking until preparation for the runway shift occurs, which is not expected to occur for many years. Once the runway is shifted north, there is room elsewhere on the airport to park the existing 38 general aviation aircraft currently using the North Ramp.
- Of the 130 airplane North Ramp aircraft parking spots, only 38 are currently leased
- There are two other general aviation aircraft parking areas south of the runway
Why not extend the public review period?
State CEQA Guidelines set the process and durations for public review. CEQA Section 15105(a) states that public review for a draft EIR shall be no less than 30 days and no greater than 60 days, except under unusual circumstances. In response to public request, the public review period for this project was previously extended to 61 days.
How was the Master Plan and EIR noticed and advertised?
The County has provided notice of the opportunity to review and comment on the Program EIR in accordance with CEQA Guidelines Section 15087. This includes written notice to persons or organizations who requested written notice and posting notices of preparation. In addition, notice has been provided on the County's website, in press releases and at Palomar Airport Advisory Committee meetings.
Outreach includes email "eblasts" (1,800 contacts), print advertising (Union Tribune and Coast News), hard copy flyers (350 throughout the community), third-party websites (Carlsbad Patch; Nextdoor; Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce; and Cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista and Oceanside), County press release and print newspaper articles. Direct mailings were sent to approximately 500 addresses, including stakeholders and surrounding businesses.
How is Carlsbad involved in the Master Plan process?
For the last four years, the County has coordinated with City staff to ensure their input was heard and incorporated. Even though the airport is located in Carlsbad, the airport is under the jurisdiction of the County of San Diego and the FAA. The City has stated it will review the Master Plan and draft environmental impact report and plans to submit formal comments during the public comment period. However, the County does not require City approvals for the Master Plan Update since all the proposed improvements are within the airport property line.
How are proposed Master Plan improvements allowed without an amendment
to CUP-172 with Carlsbad?
The City issued Conditional Use Permit - 172 to grant the County the right to make alterations to facilities that are necessary to the operation of the airport. The proposed Master Plan is consistent with the CUP because it proposes changes to facilities that are necessary to provide for the safe and efficient operation of the airport. Moreover, the County is immune from City zoning ordinances under state law and there is broad federal preemption of non-sponsor regulations of on-airport facility improvements; particularly, where necessary to meet FAA design criteria.
Does the project trigger a vote of the people under Carlsbad Municipal
Code Section 21.53.015?
No. Carlsbad Municipal Code Section 21.53.015, adopted by the City of Carlsbad in 1980, requires both a legislative act by the City Council and an "expansion" as that term is used in the code section to require a vote. None of the projects in the Master Plan, would require a legislative act from the City Council (e.g., general plan amendment, zone change); and as noted in the question above regarding expansion, would not result in an expansion of the airport.
Will McClellan-Palomar Airport become like John Wayne Airport?
Significant land acquisition and development would be required to accommodate John Wayne type operations at McClellan-Palomar Airport, and the Master Plan does not propose acquisition or development to support the amount of commercial activity, the type of facilities needed, or the size of planes that operate at John Wayne. Here are some comparisons between the two airports.
What are the roles of the FAA, pilots who use the airport, and the
County as the operator of McClellan-Palomar Airport?
The FAA oversees our county's aviation program providing regulations and standards for operating aircraft, they license pilots, and they certify commercial airports like McClellan-Palomar. The FAA is responsible for air traffic control which includes flight paths, controlling airplanes while they're flying and while they're moving on the ground on the airport's taxiway and runway. The FAA also has a lesser-known regulatory role. In exchange for providing federal grant funding for making airport improvements, airport owners, like the County, must make binding commitments to the FAA on how we must operate the airport. This requires the County to make the airport available to "all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical uses." Simply put, the County cannot limit the types of aircraft that use McClellan-Palomar Airport or when they can operate.
The pilot's responsibility depends on whether or not the aircraft is general aviation, such as private corporate airplanes, or a commercial airliner. For private airplanes, the pilot is responsible for determining whether or not they can safely land their plane at an airport. For commercial pilots, the FAA, as part of their certification for commercial airlines, indicates the airports where the commercial planes can land.
The County operates and maintains the airport to ensure safety for the users of the airport. The County manages the facilities, including constructing airport improvements and planning for the airport's future; provides airport security and firefighting response services; manages leases for the businesses who operate at the airport; and the County coordinates with the FAA to ensure we are properly managing the airport. The County does not have the authority to limit how many planes use the airport or to limit the size of the airplanes landing at the airport.
What are the airport's economic benefits to the region and local businesses?
In 2008, an Economic Vitality Analysis was prepared for the airport to determine the economic benefit to the region in 2030. The analysis concluded that the airport will contribute by 2030 the following to the local and regional economy:
- 4,615 jobs
- $155.2 million in personal income
- $560.8 million in revenue
- $33.4 million in state and local tax revenue
Has the FAA implemented the SoCal Metroplex (FAA's NextGen) route procedures?
Yes, SoCal Metroplex flight procedures have been implemented by the FAA around McClellan-Palomar Airport. NextGen did not change the airport's flight patterns; it provides guidance to pilots to allow a smoother approach and departure.
Has general aviation declined at McClellan-Palomar Airport over the years?
In 2001, McClellan-Palomar had 500 aircraft based at the airport and in 2017 had 308 aircraft, a decrease of 38% overall in general aviation aircraft based at the airport.
Are contaminants from the landfills a public safety concern during construction?
No, landfill contaminants are not a concern for the public, but safety protocols would need to be implemented to protect construction workers from direct exposure to contaminants during construction. Once projects are designed, any project that would disturb landfill areas would need to prepare a remediation plan outlining construction methods and contaminant avoidance. The plans will be reviewed and enforced by regulatory agencies.
Why are there no mandatory restrictions on night operations?
In 1990, the Airport Noise and Capacity Act prohibited airport owners/operators from implementing curfews without FAA approval. Airports that had curfews prior to 1990 were allowed to keep them in place. However, a curfew was not in place at McClellan-Palomar Airport. Following completion of a Part 150 noise study in 2006, the County submitted a request to implement a curfew for McClellan-Palomar Airport. The FAA denied the request because the study showed there are no residences inside the 65 CNEL noise contour, and there have been no significant operations changes at their airport since 2006. Even if all the projects proposed in the master Plan are completed, it is not expected there would be any current residential uses inside the 65 CNEL and as such, no justification for the FAA to approve a mandatory curfew.
John Wayne Airport and San Diego International Airport both have curfews that were in place before the Airport Noise and Capacity Act was adopted in 1990. John Wayne Airport established a curfew in 1985, prohibiting departures between 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and arrivals between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. San Diego International Airport adopted regulation in 1989 restricting overnight flights from leaving (there are no time restrictions for arriving flights). Airlines that take off between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m face fines depending on how frequently they have broken the curfew.
Are airborne lead levels exceeded at the airport?
No. A lead monitoring station was initially installed at McClellan-Palomar Airport in 2012 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a monitoring study. The County of San Diego Air Pollution Control District (APCD) found the EPA methodology and testing location did not accurately sample areas of potential human exposure. A 2013 follow-up study by the APCD determined that lead levels do not exceed air quality thresholds, and the latest EPA lead data at the airport (2018) indicates lead levels remain well below thresholds
Why might there be an odor of jet fuel sometimes in my neighborhood?
Fuel odors from aircraft are associated with combustion of all types, from small piston-engine airplanes to jets. The amount and distance of fuel odors is dependent on a number of factors, including proximity and directional wind flow. Generally, as engines power down on approach, or are taxying on the ground, the fuel is not fully burned and can be a source of odors.
Some residents have expressed concerns about the potential of aircraft dumping fuel inflight. The County is not aware of any instance where fuel has been dumped on approach or in the vicinity of McClellan-Palomar Airport. The types of planes flown at McClellan-Palomar Airport do not have the ability to dump fuel, and the general aviation airplanes based at the airport also do not have the ability to release fuel in flight.