Humboldt’s airports slack on safety, repairs

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Murray Field’s used landing beacon is not adjusted to the correct angle and it can momentarily blind pilots as they land at night.

Pilots and neighboring homeowners have made the Humboldt County Department of Public Works aware of the danger, but the beacon has not been replaced.

Murray’s runway edge lights are out, another threat to operational safety.

California’s Division of Aeronautics issued orders late last year for the removal of trees (25 to 30 feet tall) and bushes northeast of the Murray runway. Further, runway, taxiway and ramp pavements are in disrepair and preventive maintenance is needed to stave off further deterioration.

These are among the findings and recommendations of a recent Humboldt County Grand Jury investigation of Humboldt’s five general aviation airports, Murray Field among them, plus the commercial California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport in McKinleyville.

The Grand Jury faulted Humboldt’s Department of Public Works, led by Director Tom Mattson, for failing to share the results of Division of Aeronautics annual reviews with the county’s Airport Advisory Committee, which reports to the county Board of Supervisors.

In its May findings, the Grand Jury stated “it could not find evidence, through observations or interviews, that issues identified in the Caltrans Division of Aeronautics inspection notification letters have been addressed at any of the [county’s] five general aviation airports.”

Hence, the importance of Mattson’s agency sharing the Aeronautics Division’s reports with the Airport Advisory Committee.

Garberville Airport, used heavily by the state’s Department of Fire Protection (CalFire) during the regular fire season, suffers from crumbling asphalt, faded runway holding position markings and hazardous trees that compromise operational safety.           

Rohnerville Airport, just south of Fortuna, also used extensively by CalFire, has cracking runway and taxiway asphalt and obstructive trees at the end of the runway that constitute a risk to heavily loaded firefighting aircraft.

Kneeland Airport, a CalFire Helitack base, is short of runoff area at both ends of the runway. Likewise, numerous trees both east and west of the runway, and several more to the northwest of the runway’s approach end, should be topped or removed to shore up operational safety.

An Aeronautics Division inspection last January found that Dinsmore Airport, some 82 miles southeast of Eureka and a CalFire bivouac with a lone wooden storage building, has no landing beacons (preventing night use) and numerous trees south of the runway that should be removed or enhanced to meet airport design obstruction standards.

All five of the county’s general aviation airports warrant tree topping or removal, the Grand Jury found.

Pavement repairs are needed at Murray Field and at Garberville and Rohnerville Airports.

The Department of Public Works should verify hangar rent income and institute revenue recovery from delinquent tenants at Murray Field and Garberville Airport, the jury recommended.


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  1. Bill said:

    So Kali, It’s a shame people talk without any knowledge of fact. They could start charging for landing fees but their is no tower to count the planes. Second if the FAA would never justify the cost of the tower and personnel, So it would cost more to charge landing fees than it could ever generate. Second planes don’t fall out of the sky. I think the idiot is YOU. Get the facts before you open your mouth. It will make you look a little smarter. Maybe not a lot though.

  2. So Kali said:

    Put a landing fee, a takeoff fee and a tax on all airport businesses.

    It is a crime that citizens are expected to pay for the lifestyle choices of a few aircraft and pilots.

    Meanwhile the same barnstorming idiots fall out of the sky with distressing frequency, destroying the lives and property of innocent land dwellers, with nearly no recourse!

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