FAA OKs key access to airport for outside businesses

An empty lot sits next to the Hollister Municipal Airport, where the FAA has allowed for access to private property through the taxi ways.

In what local business and political leaders hope is a first
step toward an expanded Hollister airport, officials announced
Friday an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to
re-open the airport’s

through-the-fence

designation that allows for direct access to the grounds from
private properties.
In what local business and political leaders hope is a first step toward an expanded Hollister airport, officials announced Friday an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to re-open the airport’s “through-the-fence” designation that allows for direct access to the grounds from private properties.

The designation was in the airport’s plans for nearly 30 years before the FAA a few years ago decided it didn’t want to allow “through the fence,” said Mike Chambless, airport manager. The through-the fence designation allows aircraft to move from the airport’s runway to adjacent businesses.

In essence, it allows businesses to have direct access to the airport, said Nancy Martin, Economic Development Corp. president. Because of the change, the airport will become the “economic driver” for the city and county.

“It’s getting us back to what we were doing all along, even though some people didn’t realize that,” she said.

But as Martin pointed out, the designation is only the first step in a larger plan to “take advantage” of the airport’s possibilities, she said. Officials now hope to build multiple taxiways, connecting hangars to the runway and providing the airport with more safety while bringing in businesses to the area.

The hope is that the rare access to the airport – only 40 to 50 airports allow it in the country – will spur interest in aviation businesses to come to the area, said airport area developer Ken Lindsay.

“San Francisco has the Giants – we have this airport,” Lindsay said. “And we are back in business.”

The airport is the key asset in the county and the through-the-fence designation allows the community to take advantage of it, Lindsay said.

After improvements to the runway and the creation of additional taxiways, the entire project is expected to bring an additional 4,281 jobs and $304.6 million to the county, according to documents presented at the announcement.

The project was dead, though, until Martin and Congressman Sam Farr got involved, according to officials.

Chambless 18 months ago received a letter of non-compliance to cease plans for taxiways that would allow adjacent business to move freely onto the airport’s runways, he said in Friday’s presentation to local community members. After trying to get the FAA to reconsider, Chambless and Martin asked for help from Farr.

Farr set up meetings with the regional FAA officials to request a reevaluation of the airport’s plans, said both Farr and Chambless during the presentation. Quickly after the meetings the FAA sent a letter to the airport giving it the OK to continue with “through the fence.”

“This is a big deal,” Chambless said.

Chambless explained that it will open up the possibilities for more business to come to the area because of the “rare” status of the airport and that it will allow for safety improvements to the runway.

The FAA usually frowns upon the designation because of possible safety issues involving residential planes and access to the runway.

“As a general principle, FAA does not support agreements that grant access to the public landing areas by aircraft stored and serviced off site on adjacent property,” according the FAA’s website. “This type of agreement is to be avoided since theses agreements can create situations that lead to violations of the sponsors’ federal obligations.”

But airport officials and Martin believe the opened-up airport will drive business interest in the area and pour millions upon millions of dollars into the local economy.

“Our future is very, very bright,” Martin said. “We have massive amounts of opportunity.”

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