And in the other corner....Truckee Local has mentioned a few of the issues which are brought up on a regular basis by those who either do not understand GA (General Aviation), or are anti-GA for some reason or another.
Not as a pure rebuttal to his points, but I would like the opportunity to offer the other side of his story.
Quote from TL-
"Sadly, while you highlight the benefits, you fail to identify any of the negatives of aviation on a mountain community. Here's a few ..."
TL- "Remem(b)er that only about one-quarter of one percent of the US poplulation are licensed pilots. Something around 650,000 folks."
VSP- This is correct. It is a group of individuals who take their passion for aviation very seriously, just as most serious skiers do. And it is far more expensive than skiing. Less then 350,000 fly small GA aircraft on a regular basis.
TL- "Conducting aviation operations in mountainous terrain is unsafe. Similarly conducting operations at altitude is unsafe, even when density altitude is ignored. Mammoth is in the top 10 percentile of unsafe airports in California. Ironically Salton Sea is the most unsafe and it's BELOW SEA LEVEL. Go figure (it's a statistical anomoly)"
VSP- This is untrue. Operation in mountainous terrain or at higher density altitudes is only unsafe if the pilot is untrained, inexperienced, and makes poor decisions. By the way- Mammoth Airport is not IN the mountains. It is on the plains to the East of the Sierra's, with an unobstructed approach from both the North and the South. Colorado Springs, CO (KCOS) (where I teach flying, specializing in Mtn Flying) is ranked in the top 5 worst x-wind airports in the US, and is positioned very similarly to the Rockies, as Mammoth is to the Sierra's. Despite that ranking, the incident rate (including STUDENT pilots) is extremely low. The incident rate in any LA Basin or Bay Area airport is considerably higher! And with much greater consequences.
TL- "Pumping leaded gas into the environment is not very socially concious - do the readers know that prop planes use leaded gas ? 100LL - the LL stands for Low Lead. Except it's not low lead really. It's 4g a gallon which actually is a high lead content."
VSP- This is true. Due to the need for the higher compression engines (as cars engines prior to 1980), MOST (not all) propeller driven aircraft do burn leaded fuel (Jets burn Jet A, which is similar to diesel fuel). But there are very few aircraft flying at any given time, compared to the thousand + cars which drive from LA to Mammoth on any given Friday, and then home again on Sunday. They may be burning unleaded fuel, but how much fossil fuel emissions are being put into the atmosphere on a comparative basis?
TL- "Airplanes make a lot of noise. And claiming that jets are getting quieter is irresponsible given that the aviation community negotiated an exclusion for jets under 75,000 pounds. So now small airports are blessed with G2/G3s that are LOUDER than current model 747-400s."
VSP- Yes, aircraft do make noise. You point purely at the "jet" noise. Prop planes are certainly quieter then jets, but both are noisiest when at full power, usually just for take off. This also happens to be when they are nearest the ground. Funny that... But soon after take off, as power settings are adjusted, noise is reduced significantly. Landings are done at significantly reduced power settings, therefore are considerably quieter operations. Another fact- all aircraft being manufactured today meet the much stricter European noise standards. The G2/G3's you mention are usually older models which have not been retrofitted with quieter engines. Yes, there are those around. But especially with RVSM taking effect, these older aircraft will likely be shipped out of the US to countries with less strict noise restrictions within the next 10 years.
TL- "General Aviation is an inefficient people mover compared to automobiles and trains, except for the time savings for the individuals who choose to fly in."
VSP- This exact same statement can be made about commercial airlines! Nobody has EVER claimed that aircraft are efficient! They are far from it, at any level of operation. If they were, the airlines would not be in the situations they are in these days. The fuel efficiency, the number of passengers, etc, are all very poor, compared to other types of ground based transportation! It all comes down to the time savings.
TL- "General Aviation is a security risk. Their basic approach is "trust us". Yet the majority of the 9-11 terrorists had some level of GA training. If you want to subset a group of folks who may be terrorists you'd get a better hit rate targetting pilots rather than muslims, or Arabs."
VSP- I'm sorry, but I can't help but laugh when I read this statement! What "security risk" does GA hold?
First of all, most GA airports have a very high percentage of extremely active, very aware pilots. Even more so since the implementation of the "Airport Watch" program (co-sponsored by the FAA, AOPA, EAA, and supported by the HSA). They will challenge anybody wandering around a ramp who seems out of place. And those individuals are quite noticeable.
Secondly- except for those trained by the military, EVERY pilot flying for an Airline was trained through GA! And because flight training in the US is so much cheaper then anywhere else in the world, a HUGE number of foreigners come here to get their training. This INCLUDES foreign militaries! Even this is now under scrutiny, with new regulations in place which require flight instrs to ascertain the nationality of, and to document, all foreign students prior to commencing flight training.
Thirdly- Let's review the lesson learned by the 15 year old who was psychologically disturbed by the 9/11 attacks. He took off without his instr, and proceeded to crash his Cessna 172 (an average GA training aircraft) into a high rise bank. He succeeded in killing himself, ruining an aircraft, and breaking a window. Yes, a case could be made that somebody else might have been killed, had the office been occupied. But average GA aircraft are quite small, carry very little fuel (usually less then 50 gallons), and travel at low speeds (average barely 100MPH). This results in a very small chance of any extensive damage being caused by those aircraft, as compared to the aircraft used on 9/11.
TL- "It's estimate(d) that a sixth of Californians live in an airport influence area which reflects the risk and noise of aviation operations. When selling a home in an airport influence area one has to issue a negative property disclos(ure) to the prospective buyer - this negatively impacts property values by billions of dollars (even though some of the property value may reflect access to aviation related facilities)."
VSP- This may be true, but most airports were built long ago, far from towns and cities which have continually grown larger, until they actually begin to surround their respective airports. They grew closer to have access to those facilities, the same ones they now claim to be a hazard. And developers knew they were building near a potential hazard. Why else did they get the land so cheaply to develop? Then they try to have the airport closed down. In excess of 70% of those areas you claim to be impacted were developed after the airport had been built. (AOPA statistics) Whose fault is that then?
More recently, the FAA has been very active in preventing developments which would encroach into approach and departure corridors, and in preventing the closing of airports which have received Federal Funding for Airport development and maintenance.
TL- "While airports are open space a large portion of the open space is runways, taxiways, apron. The rest is managed to minimize small mammals and insects to minimize bird activity and so is mowed. Airports tend to be almost as poor a environmental open-space as golf courses !"
VSP- Do you realize the mall you go shopping at probably has more acres of asphalt/concrete then the average GA airport? I don't hear you complaining about that? Airports are NOT Public Parks! And the reduction of wildlife in the vicinity of an airport is a must. Would you put a rice field right at the end of Reno/Cannon Airprot, enticing ducks and other waterfowl to congregate in the area? This would result in a high percentage of bird strikes, endangering any aircraft, and all the passengers on board. Airports do have special safety needs. And as long as the public demands the use of aircraft, commercial or GA, then those safety needs must be met.
TL- "So GA is an environmental, safety, noise, security disaster. And the GA community are doing little or nothing about it. But they want better and more airports and the FAA is happy to assist them. 'Cause they're so great for the communities they serve."
VSP- TL, the facts you have stated are mostly correct, and I appreciate your opinion. But they do not give the entire story. They are selective and misleading. (Sounds kind of like the recent Presidential campaigns...) GA is extremely active in the development of noise abatement policies, environmental concerns, safety and security. If you were an active pilot, you would know and understand these things. But like most industries, when you are on the outside, looking in, you do not recognize how things really work. This is the same for the ski industry- most skiers don't have a clue how it really is run. As long as the flights/lifts run on time, they don't really care.
Certainly we want better airports. They are safer when things aren't perfect. Such as deicing facilities at airports where snow is common. Are you aware that Reno/Cannon is a Cat III airport? That means, when the weather is REALLY bad, you can still land there. Instead of burning additional fuel while flying circles in the sky for hours, or diverting to SAC or SFO.