The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport wants to make the world a little safer, but they just might have to make a little noise to do it.
The planners for the airport want to add safety strips to their runways, a move backed by the FAA which would require shifting the strip 800-feet west of its current position and redesigning the Goleta Slough. The fact that the California Coastal Commission green-lighted the project and the airport has maintained a relatively clean track record with the environment over the years shows we can trust them to keep nature in good working order.
The airport still faces opposition from some of the locals. Fledgling Goleta, roaring louder than a 737, registered a complaint over the runway’s relocation. Its city council worked itself up over the possible increase in noise pollution over residential areas caused by a shift in flight plans to accommodate the new runway position. Mayor Margaret Connell and the rest of the city council would rather see an Engineered Material Arresting System, which is a pile of crumbled concrete at the end of the runway.
Installation of an EMAS won’t require the movement of the runway. Airports, however, usually employ an EMAS system as a last resort. These safety measures also tend to do more harm than good to smaller airliners – the kind that frequent Santa Barbara. An EMAS will stop a large plane just fine, but smaller ones get tossed around dangerously.
All the griping misses the only fact worth worrying about; the airport plans to expand by the year 2015, doubling both its square footage and passenger flow. If the airport needs to improve its safety measures by moving the runway, then let them do it. However, they shouldn’t take this allowance as a thumbs-up for rampant expansion.
Santa Barbara is a nice, moderately hidden town, and it should stay that way. If you want to overhaul the character of the city just so it’s more convenient for you to travel to the rest of the world, then go live somewhere else. A little apartment next to LAX will suit you nicely.
A safer runway is a good idea with minimal environmental impact, but it must not be used as an excuse to expand the airport.