REDLANDS>> The city is seeking the assistance of an aviation consultant to review changes proposed by a state agency to the Redlands Municipal Airport’s permit and helicopter operations.
The California Department of Transportation has revised the helicopter flight pattern included on the city’s permit, and is now directing the city to seek Federal Aviation Administration approval on a proposed altitude specification, and to require helicopter operators take off and land from either a heliport or the runway.
The City Council on Tuesday approved paying Coffman Associates an additional $29,622 to review the recommendations. The firm was hired in October for $74,950 to review the city’s documents governing the airport and surrounding land uses after several pilots questioned the appropriateness of a proposed residential development by Diversified Pacific LLC near the airport.
The firm discovered several inconsistencies among the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, the Airport Master Plan and city code. They also discovered that the city’s airport permit had not been updated to reflect the helicopter pattern approved by the City Council several years ago.
In 1997, the City Council set the helicopter flight pattern south of the runway and at an altitude of 429 feet above ground level.
In 2003, the City Council modified the flight pattern to follow an east/west alignment along Pioneer Avenue, which was reviewed by the FAA, according to the city staff report.
The city’s airport permit was not updated after either decision and continued to include a northerly flight pattern and altitude of 1,000 feet above ground level.
Helicopters have continued to operate south of the airport.
City staff worked with the consultant to revise the pattern on the permit and change the altitude to 500 feet above ground level. This was then submitted to Caltrans’ Division of Aeronautics, which issues airport permits.
Caltrans issued the city a new permit, with a southerly flight pattern and altitude of 800 feet, rather than 500 feet, according to the city staff report. Caltrans is asking the city to seek approval from the FAA on the proposed altitude of 800 feet.
They also informed the city that the city must either establish a temporary heliport until a permanent location is found or require helicopter operators to use the runway for takeoffs and landings.
Eric Fraser, a helicopter pilot at the airport, said Caltran’s recommendation for an 800-foot altitude for helicopters would create a conflict with fixed-wing traffic flying at 1,000 feet above ground level.
“If the airplanes are flying on the north side at a certain altitude the helicopters are going to avoid that flow of fixed-wing traffic and fly on the south side. That’s standard practice that is consistent with what is in aviation training documents produced by the FAA,” Fraser said on Tuesday.
“Practical test standards say a private pilot has to fly plus or minus 100 feet to be within those standards. If (fixed wing) is at 1,000 feet and helicopters are at 800 feet, that puts them directly in conflict even though they’re flying within the standards.”
Fraser said there is no requirement by the FAA that an existing airport has to have a helipad.
The city’s Airport Master Plan, drafted by Coffman Associates and approved by the council in 2008, includes a recommendation to establish a helipad with lighting and up to two parking spots. The plan identifies a place for the helipad on the east end of the airport, which would require the city to acquire 14 acres of land, to move helicopters away from fixed-wing operations as well as existing and proposed residential development.
“There’s more than just the helipad involved here,” Councilwoman Pat Gilbreath said Tuesday. “We’re talking about the flight pattern and there are many inconsistencies in the history on this. We need to straighten this out and this is one way we can come out with this straightened out, clear it with the FAA, clear it with Caltrans and clear it with the people actually at the airport. I think it’s important we move forward and have that consistency in the future.”
Original article can be found here: http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com