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Local News

Santa Barbara Airport Ramping Up for Changes to Master Plan

Projects under consideration include separating private and commercial aircraft to increase safety and security

Some changes are in the works for the Santa Barbara Airport, one of which would better separate the private, smaller aircrafts from commercial planes in an effort to increase safety and security.

The airport is a month into a long process to update its master plan, which is designed to encompass its needs and demands for the next 15 years.

Airport Director Karen Ramsdell told Noozhawk that the airport finished its previous master plan with the completion of its terminal project, set to open this month.

A new plan most likely will include relocating all general aviation — private, smaller planes and “everything that’s not airline related” — to the north side of the field, while all commercial airplanes would be on the south side, according to Ramsdell.

She said the move has been a long-term goal of the airport, along with relocating Atlantic Aviation from the south to the north end of the field. Off-site long-term parking, now at the old drive-in off Hollister Avenue, would then be moved to Atlantic Aviation’s spot at 404 Moffett Place to minimize shuttling.

“It’s better in terms of safety as well as security,” Ramsdell said, adding that private pilots don’t have the same badges to get through security as commercial pilots. “It’s sort of like moving pieces on a chess board.”

Other potential goals include extending Taxiway H, consolidating automobile parking associated with the new terminal building, and expanding the yet-to-be-opened terminal building.

Proposed changes have been shared in public meetings, she said, but some local private pilots say they aren’t aware of any potential change details.

Jim Knight, a Santa Barbara resident and small-aircraft pilot, said he’s hoping airport officials soon will share tentative plans to keep pilots who will be affected up to speed, so to speak.

“Very few of those people know about that plan,” Knight said. “The ultimate goal of this is to make sure that security guidelines of what airports need to have in Karen’s mind is satisfied.”

Local flier Frank Robinson, who founded the Serious About Aviation group six years ago, said that while he would prefer to stay on the north side of the field, he isn’t privy to the feelings of other pilots.

“We basically work to keep ourselves engaged and informed on issues that will make us better, safer pilots,” Robinson said of the group. “I don’t know what the plan is. Changes come. They usually don’t impact me unfavorably.”

The north hangars have history that Robinson is fond of. Not to mention that the area is a bit warmer than the south end, where salt from a sea breeze could corrode his aluminum Cessna 310.

“I like those old hangars. From a general standpoint, I like the north side of the airport for my airplane because it’s a little bit further from the sea breeze,” he said. But “the wrong plans could screw anything up.”

Ramsdell said the airport is in the second phase of its master plan, which is looking at alternatives for accomplishing different projects. The first was taking inventory of facilities.

The next phase will involve developing a capital program and determining cost, funding sources and timing.

She said some nonaviation tenants in some buildings may need to be phased out in stages depending on what plans are developed. She noted that FedEx and Deckers Outdoor Corp. occupy a huge hangar near the corner of Fairview and Hollister avenues.

“We depend on that revenue to fund the whole airport,” Ramsdell said. “That’s all part of the wait and see. Our master plan is activity driven.”

She said she couldn’t estimate a time frame for any projects, but that the airport will host a series of public forums before any projects undergo environmental review.

“We’ve done quite a bit of outreach.” Ramsdell said. “When we actually do the physical changes, there might be some disruption, but in the long run, I think it’ll be to (private pilots’) benefit because then they’re not mixing in with the larger commercial jets at the terminal.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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