Two Runways at San Diego International Airport?

by on December 4, 2020 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Point Loma Association/ Peninsula News / Dec. 3, 2020

Two weeks ago, before the holiday break, we noted the possible closing of MCRD. Details here.

We wondered aloud, if that land became available, could San Diego International Airport use it to build a second runway?

It was a naïve question that we foolishly thought the Airport Authority could easily address. And yet, several requests for comment went unanswered.

We should have guessed, one of our Point Loma sages, Wayne Raffesberger, has a sharp perspective on the topic. Wayne reminds us, back in the day, he worked on airport issues for two council members, for the Chamber of Commerce, for the NTC Reuse committee, the Peninsula Community Planning Board, and the PLA.

First off Wayne shucked the idea of the base closing.

“Won’t happen, no money for a new facility.” You may recall, “Won’t happen!” was also the response we got from Congressman Scott not-on-my-watch Peters.

Photos from Peninsula News

Here is why Wayne says there will never be a second runway.

“About 22 years ago we (Wayne and Councilmember Byron Wear) asked the FAA Western Regional Administrator point blank if the FAA would ever approve a sub-standard new runway, meaning one that does not have regulation length, and appropriate, cleared runway protection zones (they used to be called crash zones) at either end.

The answer was flat out no.”

Wayne says the current runway – grandfathered in – is substandard length and, “would never be allowed today.”

“You cannot fit in a second runway at Lindbergh that meets current regulations.  Period.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Geoff Page December 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm

The only thing this piece does not address is the improvements in aviation technology. The military already has a jet that can land like a helicopter. And there are current efforts to design jets that can take off and land on shorter runways. https://phys.org/news/2010-10-commercial-jets-shorter-runways.html

I’ve never believed the airport, you don’t pour billions of dollars into a one runway airport unless you are anticipating a way to make that investment back.

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Avatar Paul Webb December 4, 2020 at 1:05 pm

I respect Geoff’s opinions, but I’ll throw my two cents worth into the discussion.

Even given the MCRD property, the current configuration of the property and the addition make for a very difficult site to shoe-horn in a second runway. Back in the 2000s when we looked at it the best we could come up with would be an open “Vee” shaped two runway configuration, with the narrow end of the Vee close to Pacific Highway and the open end toward Point Loma. While it does give you a second runway, the runways would be too close together to allow for simultaneous independent use of both runways, i.e., you couldn’t have planes taking off and landing at the same time on both runways (similar to the way larger airports like LAX function). The best use would be to use one runway for departures and the other for arrivals.
While this give you a small increase in the total number of operations (operation = departure or arrival), my recollection is that it was in the neighborhood of 20% to maybe 40% over the maximum allowed with one runway. Given that a runway was estimated to cost $1 Billion over ten years ago, you have to question how much you would be willing to spend for a small increase in capacity.

Add to that the complications of safety zones, runway protection zones, object free areas, etc., mention by Wayne above, and it seems pretty unlikely.

I’ll never say never. If you demolished the existing terminals and threw away the investment you have made and moved the passenger operation over to the north side, it’s possible that some other configuration might work, but then where does the cargo facility go? And how can you justify throwing away the billions already spend and planned to be spent on the south side? Coupled with this, everything would likely still not meet minimum FAA standards. One thing I learned about the FAA over the years is that they want every airport to be as close as possible to every other airport – everything standardized down to the last detail of the last light or the last sign, much less runway standards.

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