To the editors of the Union-Tribune:
As a proud San Diegan, I will be the first to loudly proclaim, "I LOVE LINDBERGH!!" I love watching planes floating over the city from Balboa Park and downtown, I love the convenience of a downtown airport, and I love that it is a simple, easy-to-use, friendly airport.
That being said, I wish to address a few things that have been said about its future and the possibility of Miramar becoming our next airport.
One of the saddest statements being tossed around concerns the use of LAX, and how that should be our fallback position. Recently, the cities of Los Angeles, El Segundo, & Hawthorne all signed an agreement regarding LAX's future. From the website www.laxmasterplan.org, I quote:
Gate Space to Accommodate Approximately 78.9 Million Annual Passengers (MAP). Gate space is reconfigured to accommodate larger gates for current and next-generation aircraft associated with international and long haul domestic travel. The number of aircraft gates will decrease from the existing 163 to 153 to place practical constraints on numbers of operations and passengers handled and limit the throughput of LAX to approximately 78.9 MAP.
In other words, LAX will be REDUCING capacity once it reaches 78,900,000 annual passengers. Some projections place the demand in upcoming years of up to 120 MAP. Where will they go? Burbank? Orange County? Long Beach?
No - all three of those airports are closed in and face neighbors determined to not just slow their growth, but close them down outright. Burbank airport cannot make one change to the airport at all - it is the law. Even the federally mandated luggage inspections have to take place outside, as the law prohibits even the slightest modification to any portion of the airport.
Orange County has one of the shortest runways for commercial operation in the United States, barely half as long as Lindbergh Field's, at 5700 feet in length. This airport is closed completely from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM - and unlike Lindbergh, no landings are permitted. Newport Beach, the community at the end of the runway, would just as soon the airport be closed completely.
Long Beach airport is slot-restricted. That means only a certain number of landings and take-offs per day are permitted, regardless of the size of the aircraft.
For other commercial service, there are only two airports in the Los Angeles area - Ontario, and to a lesser extent, Palm Springs. Ontario has the capacity to grow, but it is located quite a distance east of the metro Los Angeles area, as well as being quite far north of the San Diego area.
If we assume LAX (and other airports in Southern California) to be our fallback position if and when Lindbergh becomes too small, then there will be a most unpleasant surprise when these other airports say, "Sorry - we're already full. Go back where you came from and use your own airport".
With that being said, some have suggested, "well, we'll just tell the airlines to start flying bigger planes here!!"
The fact is that the airlines would LOVE for our airports to become slot-restricted. When you limit the number of take-offs and landings, you limit the number of seats that can be sold. As demand increases but supply stays static, the cost for each seat will start to rise. Airlines will make more money off of each flight, because they know that there is no alternative for the customer, nor do they have to worry about competition, because with slot-controls, no one else can enter.
Some airlines only fly one type of plane. Southwest Airlines, that champion of low-fares, only flies 737's of various types. Their business model stresses simplicity, and they will NOT be buying a different type of airplane with larger capacity simply because certain customers want them to. In fact, the trend with most airlines in this country is to offer more frequencies with smaller planes to give travellers more choices.
I would love to see Lindbergh able to handle our air traffic needs forever. But I don't see how that can happen. I wish I had a simple solution that would make everyone happy, but that kind of panacea is a fable even the Grimm Brothers wouldn't try. What is needed is a calm discussion of ALL the facts and some hard choices for the future, both of which do not seem to be happening.
Maybe calmer heads will prevail, maybe not.
Thank you for letting me express my opinion.