gmhTODAY 21 gmhToday Aug Sept 2018 - Page 90

Pilots (l-r) Jerry Bennett, Pat Belanger, Jim Petersen, Frank Giancola, Gene Kindred, and Mike Brogley at San Martin Airport The Fate of E16 I San Martin Airport Faces an Uncertain Future Written By Robin Shepherd SMA at a Glance The San Martin Airport (SMA) is a General Aviation Airport owned by the County of Santa Clara. The airport was built with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds and activated in 1972. It has a single 3095-foot runway and 90 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN currently houses approximately 150 single-engine, multi- engine, and helicopter aircraft in hangars or on tiedowns. SMA and Reid-Hillview are both designated by the FAA as reliever airports to San Jose International—an important role in terms of providing additional airport capacity and community airport access—and therefore have higher priority for funding than many other airports. There are no county staff employed at the airport. Instead, Magnum Aviation acts as the airport’s fixed-based operator (FBO), providing services including: aircraft hangar storage, fueling, aircraft push back/taxi, a rental fleet, maintenance, and a flight school with ground and flight training to earn various Private Pilot Certificates and ratings. South County Pilots Speak Out After the county meeting, a group of pilots based at San Martin Airport offered to meet and talk about their concerns. According to Pat Belanger, “We’ve all been in aviation for a long time. We’re tired of seeing airports being mismanaged and priorities misdirected. The county has decided to make some sacrifices at our expense. They want to run this airport in a way that’s fiscally responsible in their minds, but they are not willing to accept FAA grants and guidance on how to do it. For the past several years the county has walked away from signifi- cant FAA grant money available to the county airports.” Belanger is a 50-year career pilot who has flown everything from F16 fighter jets to commercial jets to private planes for his current aerial photography business, 111th Photography, which he owns and operates at San Martin Airport with his wife Julie. He’s also a former board member of the South County Airplane Pilots Association (SCAPA). SCAPA Board President Mike Brogley explained that there AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 n May, the Santa Clara County Roads & Airports Department (RAD) held a public meeting in a hangar at the San Martin Airport to review an updated draft Airport Business Plan. The hangar was filled with county residents— mostly pilots who keep their planes at the airport and fly frequently for business, pleasure, and nonprofit work. Their somber mood reflected concerns about the airport’s future. Presiding over the meeting were Eric Peterson and Harry Freitas, who hold director-level posts within RAD. Peterson outlined the County’s updated draft plan, including proposed steps to manage and fund the San Martin Airport (along with the County’s Reed-Hillview Airport) in the future. He said the plan would be presented to the County Board of Supervisors for approval within four to six months. Peterson discussed needs for airfield and facility improve- ments at San Martin and Reid-Hillview and said the airports aren’t generating enough income. A significant portion of improvement projects identified at both airports are eligible for FAA grant funding. Receipt of such funding would require the County to accept a 25-year grant assurance and conform to associated FAA requirements. During public comment, attendees were respectful but more than a little surprised and frustrated by what they had heard. Questions arose regarding the county’s immediate and long- term priorities and intentions for the airports as well as its capital improvement and operational cost estimates.