By Bo Poertner
January 26, 2011
Despite an economic downturn, Lompoc Airport is positioned to accommodate an increase in business aircraft traffic that could boost the local economy, according to a rough draft of the airport’s master-plan update.
The 20-year Lompoc Airport Master Plan update, which is being reviewed by the FAA before being sent to the City Council for adoption, foresees a moderate increase in airport-based aircraft and in air traffic, said Richard Fernbaugh, the city’s aviation/transportation administrator.
“I don’t see us growing by leaps and bounds,” Fernbaugh said, noting that traffic and development at the airport reflects slow growth in the city itself. Both air traffic and fuel sales have declined during this economy, he said.
Lompoc’s is a “general aviation” airport, serving primarily small, personal aircraft, helicopters and some small business jets. The 208-acre airport is not equipped to serve commercial passengers like the Santa Maria and Santa Barbara airports do.
“However, the airport will also be planned to serve an increasing number of business aircraft (turboprops and business jets) in order to allow the airport to serve the city as an asset and stimulate the local economy,” according to the master plan developed by AECOM Transportation, Orange, which was hired in March 2009.
No major alterations are planned at the airport, according to the draft of the master plan update.
The Federal Aviation Administration provides most of the funding through an Airport Improvement Grant for the master plan update, which was submitted in October.
City Councilman Dirk Starbuck intends to talk with the Airport Commission at its March 3 meeting to discuss air charter services to serve the new public safety complex that will be built at the Lompoc campus of Hancock College. It will be one of few such training complexes in the state.
“If you could land and have a rent-a-car and be less than a mile from your school, what a great scenario for us,” Starbuck said.
“We have people flying in all the time in these little Learjets buying cases of wine,” Starbuck said, touting the economic potential of the airport. “It’s a hidden jewel in Lompoc.”
Fernbaugh said corporate aircraft from “multiple location companies” such as The Home Depot, Raytheon, Ross, Boeing and others make regular visits to Lompoc and Vandenberg Air Force Base, flying into the airport and staying overnight.
“They fly in here rather than fly in to the Santa Maria airport because they are a half-hour closer and time is important,” Fernbaugh said. “During the (Delta) rocket launch, we had about 20 aircraft fly in – all of them had something to do with the launch. Probably 10 of them spent the night.”
Fernbaugh said the airport would be attractive to any business that wanted to relocate to Lompoc because “they know they can travel easily, without traveling overland.”
Among the planning issues identified by the airport’s Technical Advisory Committee and addressed in the master plan update:
· Extending the airport’s 4,600-foot runway by about 200 feet would make taking off safer. The project would cost $1.6 million to $1.8 million, but won’t be done until money is available, which could be at least five years away, according to Fernbaugh. The slightly longer runway would allow small jets to take off with additional fuel or passengers.
· Relocating the airport’s helipad, which was displaced by construction of the new Skydive Santa Barbara hangar.
· Repaving the north apron.
· Maping the Santa Ynez River flood plain boundaries, to identify areas where construction can take place.
· Incorporating new hangars into the master plan.
· Exploring development of the 13 acres on the airport’s south side.
· Renovating the 40-year-old administration building.
· Providing “blast” protection along H Street.
· Improving visual aids for aircraft landings and take-offs.