Stephen Houlahan – Vying for 48th District – On Problems With Gillespie Field

by on April 1, 2022 · 76 comments

in Election, San Diego

Houlahan, Candidate for U.S. Congress, Says East County Should Rethink Gillespie Field Airport

By Colleen Cochran

During a recent townhall meeting, Stephen Houlahan, candidate for CA’s 48th Congressional District, discussed the ways Gillespie Field airport negatively impacts adjacent Santee and El Cajon residents. He cited crashes and noise and air pollution, and said, given all the development that has taken place in these East San Diego County cities over the years, the region may not be the right place for an airport anymore.

Recent Plane Crashes

Houlahan has long voiced apprehensions about planes crashing into the airport’s nearby neighborhoods, and unfortunately, recent events prove his fears have merit.

On December 27, 2021, a Learjet 35A crashed and exploded in the unincorporated Bostonia neighborhood near El Cajon, killings its four members, damaging a resident’s yard, and causing power outages for more than 3,600 SDG&E customers throughout the El Cajon area. A preliminary report issued in January by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed “the airplane struck a set of power lines and impacted the yard of a residential home” while attempting its descent onto Runway 27R of Gillespie Field.

Two months earlier, on October 11, 2021, a Cessna C340 crashed onto a residential street in Santee. The plane hit a man driving a UPS truck, who died, as did the pilot. Two residents were sent to the hospital, two houses were destroyed, multiple cars caught fire, and the plane crashed dangerously close to Santana High School. The pilot had been intending to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa, but given the low altitude at which he was flying, it is conjectured that mechanical failure may have forced him to attempt an emergency landing at Gillespie Field. The NTSB final report has not yet been issued.

Construction on the Airport Safety Zone Would Have Increased the Potential for Crashes

A 142,000-square-foot Amazon distribution center was set to be constructed on land that presently serves as a safety zone for pilots experiencing take-off difficulties.

Said Houlahan, “The high probability of plane accidents in the region is the very reason I was against building an Amazon distribution center on the airport’s safety zone. I thought there was a good possibility that Amazon’s future employees were going to pay with their lives.”

Many nearby residents were also against the Amazon project, citing increased noise, pollution, and air and ground traffic, and hence, reduced property values, amongst their concerns. A group called Neighbors Against Noise and Traffic was formed, and it filed a lawsuit in the San Diego Superior Court to halt construction of the facility.

In October 2021, Amazon pulled out of the project. Whether its decision was due to resident outcries or whether it was due to the Working Families Ordinance, a county proposal that calls for workers to be paid union-level wages and receive 56 hours of paid sick leave per year, is unknown. Amazon did not state the specific reasons for its decision not to build a distribution center in El Cajon.


Gillespie Field airport was developed back in the 1940s as a Marine parachute-training base. The site was chosen because surrounding mountains ensured low wind levels that helped keep paratroopers safe.

“Today the area is heavily developed, so those low winds that kept paratroopers safe are doing the exact opposite for the people who live within the El Cajon Valley. There is an inversion layer that keeps pollutants from heavy industry, cars, and the airport trapped within the region,” said Houlahan.

Lead emission from Gillespie’s small piston-engine airplanes is the most nefarious threat to residents’ health. Numerous research studies have shown that children who live near small airports in which the aircraft use leaded fuel (as opposed to kerosene-based fuel used by jet aircraft at large airports) have particularly high levels of lead in their blood, and no level of lead is safe for children. Lead exposure has been definitively linked to neurological and development problems in children.

Due to a study that found elevated levels of lead in children living near Reid-Hillview Airport, in August of 2021, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to stop leaded fuel sales in both the Reid-Hillview and San Martin airports. Nothing, however, prevents pilots from filling up elsewhere and then flying into those airports, and some aircraft are not equipped to use unleaded gas.

“I am absolutely always one to err on the side of caution for the health of children. Remember, it was lead piping that caused the fall of the Roman Empire,” said Houlahan. “Lead is not good. It’s toxic.”

“The other thing people don’t understand,” continued Houlahan, “is that Gillespie Field is a giant superfund site waiting to happen. A business called Ametek-Straza used to operate east of the airport, and that business caused a toxic plume of chemicals that were dumped in the soil and traveled underneath an elementary school, underneath Highway 67, underneath Gillespie Field, and are about to penetrate into Santee. The site needs to be cleaned up.”

Gillespie Field Seeking to Expand

Despite resident environmental and safety concerns, Gillespie Field has for several years been seeking to expand operations onto its 70 unused acres, a plot of land that was previously occupied by the Cajon Speedway. It seemed the expansion was a go, but in 2016 the FAA was unable to fund the project.

A group called Citizens Against Gillespie Expansion (CAGE), founded by Robert Germann, worked to thwart the airport’s efforts to expand, and this organization remains on guard against any future efforts. At one time, CAGE was pushing for the acreage to become the site of a new Chargers Stadium. Today, its members advocate for other uses, such as another type of sports venue, a concert arena, or a farmer’s market.

Stephen Houlahan says the East County communities need to carefully consider whether Gillespie Field is benefiting them, and citizen concerns need to be addressed by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. He said, “Many of these small airports are relics from an earlier time period, before areas became developed. It’s likely citizens want the land to be repurposed so that it provides more value to the community.”

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Germann April 1, 2022 at 12:57 pm

TGIF, what a great article. Kudos to the paper and writer. Finally, somebody is talking about how irresponsible San Diego County/City has been on supporting these outdated(old) TOXIC, waste of our inner cities land.
Move Lindbergh to MCAS revisit Prop A. 2005. Let’s vote on a new “World” airport that serves all of San Diego County not just the downtown business, conventioneers, and tourists. Thanks so much for this article.
Have a great weekend!


Mr. Nobody April 20, 2022 at 6:45 pm

STOP Jet Noise NOW – America agrees.
What’s going on here is a perpetuation of past mistakes.
Most of these small airports were once, like the international airports, located on what was old farm or ranch land far from local homes and businesses. As such they were a blessing to those who used them, and no thought to those who didn’t. That change like everything else post WWII.

First Cities and counties allowed development to serve the airports, and then to crowd around them with homes being the latest massive arrivals. At the same time, more money has spawned more planes, and and expanded the whole of aviation which has paid little attention to the noise and chemical pollution it produces. While we pay very high salaries to Dept of Public Health professionals, and a host of others, none of these agency people seem concerned about putting public health and safety first relative to the operation of aircraft over and around us.

The idea of a mega airport more suitably placed to serve the whole county, may just make too much sense? And the need for the military to occupy prime real estate may also be questionable – at least in some cases. Common sense fails to prevail when greed and corruption get in the way.


Robert Germann April 21, 2022 at 6:03 am

Good morning, I agree with Mr. Nobody. For the amount of money being spent on an airport remodel located on prime bay front property doesn’t make sense. If city/county projects don’t make common sense, then accusations of Greed and Corruption pop up because that is the motive that makes sense. When citizens learn that San Diego County Airport Authority spent $120,000 (2021) for lobbyists for a public use airport it just adds fuel to those accusations. What is the real reason the military needs 26,000 acres in the middle of our city for a under used airport whose primary aircraft are Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL’s)


Nicholas F. Pipitone April 23, 2022 at 3:00 pm

I’ve previously commented on the Vertical takeoff and landing comment. But here it is again. Miramar is not limited to Vertical takeoff and landings only. There is FA-18 training ongoing as well. The 26,00 0 acres mentioned provides a safety zone in the event of a mishap. If the land were given up by DOD to allow residential development, I might agree with you.


Vern May 28, 2022 at 9:05 am

“… The San Diego F/A-18 crash was the crash of a United States Marine Corps (USMC) F/A-18 Hornet in a residential area of San Diego, California on December 8, 2008. The pilot, First Lieutenant Dan Neubauer (28) from VMFAT-101, was the only crewmember on board the two-seat aircraft; he ejected successfully, landing in a tree. The jet crashed into the University City residential area, destroying two houses and damaging a third. A total of four residents in one house, two adults and two children, were killed…”


Gary Keller May 30, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I am curious Vern, what is the current, or past, price for taking out a family of 4 as collateral damage by our military?


Vern June 1, 2022 at 8:21 am

Its a good question, Gary.

“…The official investigation found the accident preventable. The squadron’s commanding officer, maintenance officer, operations officer and operations duty officer were relieved of duty, and nine more Marines were disciplined…
A judge ordered the federal government to pay family members $17.8 million. The US government appealed that judgment, and eventually the parties reached a settlement…”

Apparently, Neubauer is now a Delta Airlines first officer which is an aviation worker who helps navigate and operate flights. He works in the cockpit with a captain.

It’s possible that this military pilot, who “ghost flew” his plane into a residential neighborhood, was regaled as a “hero” at some point, by someone.


Nicholas F. Pipitone May 28, 2022 at 7:54 am

Well, let’s see. Do away with Gillespie Field, open up the reulting land for more homes. More homes with the potential for two cars+ for each home, increasing the already commuter traffic backups. So now we have people complaining about the increased backups, potential for increases in accidents adding to the backups, and the complaints now change to a new argument. people will start thinking that the existance of Gillespie field wasn’t all that bad! And as they say, ” AND THE BEAT GOES ON.”



Robert Germann May 29, 2022 at 3:03 pm

Nick, A planned community is a community where you, live, play, and work without having to travel into San Diego via the 52 or 8. This is what would replace Gillespie Field. The non-aviation businesses (work) are already there so you would build a Gillespie Sports Village (play) and affordable housing (live).


Gary Keller May 30, 2022 at 2:23 pm

“They” were Sonny and Cher who were very much on the Progressive side of the political spectrum and likely would have opted for a park instead of the pathetic thing called Gillespie Field that currently exists. I may be wrong on this, perhaps you could give Cher a call and ask her.


Frank Gormlie May 31, 2022 at 9:54 am

Cher was and remained “progressive,” but Sonny turned Republican and turned his jive ass into a hard one.


Tina Etue April 1, 2022 at 7:48 pm

This is so true! Now they sell jet fuel at a lower rate and the jets come in all the time to fuel up and fly on. It’s horrible. Jets rattle the homes they are so low to make the short outdated old airport. Very unsafe. Thank you for addressing this.


Nick April 6, 2022 at 2:12 pm

Exactly who is selling the fuel at the lower rate? How much lower is the fuel?


Robert Germann April 2, 2022 at 9:01 am

Good morning, Tina is right on, the aircraft come to Gillespie for fuel and service waiting for a call from their clients. Then travel the 6 minutes back to Lindbergh to pick them up. The Enviromint and citizens get hit twice with pollution and noise at both cities. The two airports could care less about the Enviromint and citizens. The airports love this because it adds to their operations, high operation numbers justify Lindbergh’s 5-billion-dollar expansion and a 250-million-dollar expansion at Gillespie Field. Lindbergh is a joke small one runway international airport. Gillespie is one of the most dangerous G.A. airports in the nation. It is a scam that is working because nobody is watching the store (tax money). Consolidate both airports to the 26,000 acres. at MCAS. Thanks to the RAG, Houlahan and Colleen for exposing this abuse. Hope there is more to follow.


R.N. April 2, 2022 at 1:21 pm

I don’t care how long this airport has been around. It has served and outgrown its purpose, and now needs to go (or be re-located). It has proved to be a highly dangerous and disastrous location for aviation purposes. How many more unnecessary plane crashes and innocent lives need to be taken until something is done. Are they waiting for a plane to crash into Santana H.S. with mass devastation of children’s lives, to take action?!


Nicholas Pipitone April 2, 2022 at 2:34 pm

Re: Stephen Houlahan, 48th dist. Congressional Candidate. This gentleman cites what he feels is an immediate threat to El Cajon and surrounding area. The Lear Jet crash in December was unfortunate. His comment on pollution from General Aviation Airplanes is unfounded. Unless he’s driving an electric car, he’s contributing as much to the pollution he refers to. As a matter fact, the fuel used in reciprocating aircraft engines is LOW LEAD fuel. The temperature inversion he speaks of sounds like it occurs daily which it does NOT. This gentleman needs to verify his information before putting in print. His comment about the Cessna 340 crash could have occurred beyond Gillespie Field since the destination was Montgomery Field, not Gillespie. This crash had absolutely nothing to do with the location of Gillespie field. The Citizens against Gillespie Field has been a long standing complaint. Many of the resident living on the mesa immediately west of Gillespie Field new of the airport when the bought homes in the area. They were aware airplanes make noise.
Gillespie field trains a lot of foreign students who bring much revenue to the area. Do away with Gillespie Field, the same voices filing complains will have another complaint when their taxes increase to make up for the loss of revenues. Don’t you just love politics?


Mr. Nobody April 20, 2022 at 6:55 pm

You are right that planes make noise. And lots more planes make lots more noise than before. And inconsiderate, selfish, and/or passive aggressive pilots choosing to do repeat patterns for hours at low altitude over homes really hacks people off.

Revenue ought to be weighed against public health damages and loss of the quiet enjoyment of people’s homes. Your comment that AvGas 100LL is less polluting that the average gas car is wrong, Where’s your study to prove that one?


Nancy J Burdge April 3, 2022 at 9:06 am

Learn more about Mr. Houlahan here:


Brandi April 3, 2022 at 10:10 am

Think about the consequences- Gillespie is essential to the community for which it serves. The Valley Fire, just 2 miles from Gillespie was contained so quickly only because Gillespie closed a runway to support a fire attack base and provided shelter and rest space for the fire crews. If Gillespie wasn’t there, that fire would not have been contained so quickly. Do local residents not realize the airport generates over $403 million in direct economic impact to East County? And supports over 3,164 jobs in the City of El Cajon What about Sheriff helicopters which are based there? How would East County be kept safe? What about the fire fighting helicopters based at Gillespie? That Sky Crane is integral in fire support – it even helped put out the Valley Fire with the Military helicopter brought in. And don’t get me started on the air medivac aircraft all of which are based out of there to help the community. I get that airplane accidents are scary, and happen so infrequently that they are sensationalized- but you must realize Gillespie Field is a national reliever airport and a very important part of the air transportation system.


Gary Keller April 4, 2022 at 10:09 am

With the exception of spotter planes, most, if not all of the rest that fight brush fires from the air are rotary – as in helicopters. These aircraft, though essential, do not need an airport nor a runway for that matter. A slab, a small building and a close water source is what they need. Can you provide a link that shows specifically where that $403 million in direct economic aid goes to? There is always a lot of talk about these airports being economic engines but not much written proof. Can you state all 3,164 jobs that are created by the airport? How many times exactly has Gillespie Field been used as a reliever airport? Gillespie Field is used by private pilots and flight schools. Mostly the latter. How many other people in El Cajon or surrounding communities are actually using the airport? BTW, general aviation accidents probably happen more frequently than you think.


Keith April 4, 2022 at 3:37 pm

Strange… I fight fire with fixed wing tankers… CalFire also uses Gillespie as an alternate tanker base when Ramona is unavailable due to construction. Encroachment on the airport is the problem… which was their first. Don’t buy a house near an airport.


Gary Keller April 6, 2022 at 10:45 am

Just hate all that construction time. How often has Cal Fire used SEE as an alternate base?
I agree that encroachment on all 20,000 airports is the problem. I wonder if they all would have encroached if more information about the emissions were known. How many knew about all the flight schools flying low over their homes before they encroached?
Humans and airports do not mix too well health wise. Now that it is known, what is the most logical solution?


Gary Keller May 30, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Kieth, and his reply to my post, seems to have left the room.


Ron June 2, 2022 at 7:34 am

Thanks Gary for your response. Lead emissions is definitely a viable way of approaching the FAA with data why these small planes are bad in other ways as well. The continued “lawnmower” noise we hear, the presence of planes flying over us off and on all day, every day, pollutants, etc. Also, for us, we feel like we have drones flying over our home constantly looking down on us which eliminates any privacy from above. Hard to explain but it is starting to affect us in not so good ways. Cheers, R


Robert Germann April 6, 2022 at 1:34 pm

Keith, could you describe how the fixed wing tankers fight fires. Seriously


Ron June 1, 2022 at 9:31 am

Folks, we live in Alpine and listen to the “students” and other pilots who fly directly to Alpine’s Wright’s Field (AKA Dirt Patch) to begin their practice maneuvers. These pilots are so abusive that you hear planes practicing every day unless it’s too cloudy or raining over the Greater Alpine Area from Alpine Heights to The Willows to north of the 8 Freeway. It has so degraded our quality of life that we formed to show residents how serious this daily activity is. The constant sound of “lawnmowers” in the sky over our community not only sucks but presents possible safety concerns over another aircraft going down in East County but this time maybe crashing into a school or other crowded area. Montgomery Field is also a problem for us in Alpine with all their pilots practicing over our homes. The constant increase in pilot training will lead to more crashes not to mention the continued noise pollution we experience each and every day. Moving Gillespie Field and relocating the County designated Practice Area over the Greater Alpine region would be a great start to reclaiming our neighborhoods. Thanks


Sorry not Sorry June 1, 2022 at 11:34 am

Well, here’s an idea. Let’s close Gillespie AND Montgomery fields. Shift that traffic to other airports, thereby increasing air traffic congestion. That will increase the risk of an accident. THEN we can have students practice over MORE populated areas of the county also increasing the possibility of more damage and casualties in the event of an accident. As long as it isn’t over Alpine. Sound Good?

It has been said a million times before, that airport and practice/training area was there probably long before your house. But nobody thought about that when they built and bought a house there? In some ways I do sympathize with you. I grew up in Point Loma and went to Point Loma High School. I had to live, learn and sleep with planes going overhead every 5 minutes for 17 hours a day. Not “lawnmowers in the sky”, JETS. Most people I know, didn’t care much for it, but nearly all of them knew they weren’t going to change it. The airport was there long before the area got so congested.


Robert Germann June 1, 2022 at 11:56 am

Sorry person, I think you are confused. Moving is the word you meant to use. If the city had moved Lindbergh to MCAS, then maybe you could have “lived, learned and slept in a better Enviroment. I’m sorry nobody cared about you to try and find a solution to your problems. We are trying now for our/your kids and their kids. Better late than never as the saying goes.


Sorry not Sorry June 1, 2022 at 12:03 pm

Well, actually, Miramar wasn’t an option back then. The Navy was still using it. Sorry you didn’t pay attention when you bought your house, now you want a government to close an airport because of you lack of attention to your surroundings. We can play this game all day long insulting each other, I was just making the same point I am sure you heard before, Gillespie was there long before you were.


Sorry not Sorry June 1, 2022 at 12:06 pm

And that will affect who knows how many other people’s jobs and economic results. But hey, lawnmowers hurt your ears I guess.


Robert Germann June 1, 2022 at 12:37 pm

The way we see it, it will create good union jobs for the different transitions and the manning of the new airport system. These different airports are nothing, but an anti-union double breasting system set up by past anti worker politicians. It will be good for the businesses/city to have a “State of the Art” multiple runway Airport in an environmentally friendly location accessible to ALL of San Diego County citizens. The Marines would love to be stationed on San Diego Bay next to their training center protecting our harbor. It will be good for businesses that will build/supply mufflers and catalytic converters for these unleaded burning small G.A. aircraft. What more could anybody ask for.


Robert Germann June 1, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Miramar is an option now and we want to use that option. It has nothing to do with MY house. It has to do with politics. Right now, politics are running our aviation system in San Diego, we want to change that. This San Diego system is having a negative effect on our family’s quality of life and there are options to fix it. Citizen’s lead politicians follow. Have a nice Day.


Nick Pipitone June 2, 2022 at 6:57 am



Great to hear som common sense for a change!!


Vern June 1, 2022 at 8:03 pm

Nevertheless, people lived in San Diego long before there were airports of any kind.


Sorry not Sorry June 2, 2022 at 6:31 am

Also, before there was fire…..Point?


Robert Germann June 1, 2022 at 11:43 am

Ron, how about relocating the pilot training back to where these “Commercial Intent” flight schools came from, Arizona. In 2008 Arizona had twice the national average for small general aviation accidents. The FAA’s solution was to break up the training groups into smaller groups. Instead of 45o students a cycle, train a 150 students a cycle and give them more air space to train. Calif was picked to take Arizona’s overload. A restructing of the airports in S.D. is a start. Putting eye’s in the sky would help with safety concerns. Burning un-leaded fuel would help because now these small aircraft (trainers) are like cars. Could be fitted with mufflers and catalytic converters helping with the noise issue. General Aviation is 53% of the FAA’s work load, it is counter productive for them to find solutions to our concerns. It might effect their paychecks. After the Boeing 737 Max crashes and others. The FAA should be broken up. Keep the Faith, Help is on the Way. Holahan for Congress.


Ron June 1, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Thanks Robert for your input. The planes, listening to one right now practicing overhead, sound like “flying lawnmowers” in the sky….great ideas about mufflers and c-converters to control the emissions. Best solution is to get the training moved to safer, very rural areas. So far to date, Congressman Issa’s office has listened but not much more unfortunately. All other local and state politicians have also just passed the buck saying it’s not their job, call the FAA. And, the FAA says they can’t help. We need a change who will help us with this nonsense. R


Gary Keller June 1, 2022 at 12:40 pm

Ron, you’re far from the only ones in the US who are being abused by flight school training. Some groups are having some limited success on a number of FB pages with the noise issue, but it is quite a struggle. People with far more money than we have sold the lawmakers that general aviation is an “economic engine” and that there is a “pilot shortage”. Neither is true, but the flight schools are quite happy about it. If you’re not into picketing city hall, then my suggestion is to convince other parents in your neighborhood to have their families, especially young children in their families tested for lead in their blood. This would provide a base from which any increase from that day would point to the planes. Get it done again a year later and so forth. If you can arrange for several families to get this testing done at one time, let the local media know why you feel that it is a necessary thing to do to protect your families from the proven lead emissions from piston driven planes flying out of Gillespie and Montgomery. On the issue of safety, flying these aircraft is a higher risk venture than pilots know. Mostly a pilot problem, but occasionally (as in UPS trucks) that risk spills over. The riskiest flying is, well, flying as a Blue Angel – but we’ll save that for another time.


Robert Germann April 3, 2022 at 10:42 am

Nick, there are 9 citizen groups from Oceanside to Alpine that are dissatisfied with The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s Plan. (RASP), two lawsuits filed, 1 winner. Carlsbad. 1 pending El Cajon. I guarantee more are on the way.
Congresswomen Sahra Jacobs appropriated $800,000 (11/21) for studying and cleanup of only a small portion of the plume now under Gillespie Field Airport. The “Old Guard” were just covering up the toxins with asphalt. Covering up issues is how business is done by past and current East County politicians. Congressional Canidate Houlahan is trying to change that habit.


Gary Keller April 3, 2022 at 12:56 pm

Although the fuel, AvGas 100LL is actually called low lead means little to those reading this as to how much lead is in this fuel. It is called low lead because that is what it is compared to with another aviation fuel from an earlier time. This “low lead” fuel has 4X the amount of lead that was in a gallon of automobile gasoline – just before it was banned in 1996 because most people know that there is no safe level of lead in your blood. According to the EPA, Gillespie Field has 50% more lead emissions each year than the airport in the study mentioned above where leaded AvGas is now banned. Although the flight schools will not give out numbers, they cater mostly to foreign students who are majorly responsible for the 1100 pounds of lead that children around Gillespie Field breathe in every year. People may have been aware of the noise – did they know about the lead? And exactly who does that increased revenue from the flight schools go to?


Ronald Ripperger April 4, 2022 at 7:16 am

Our Group in Alpine, HELLPAlpine.ORG, has been advocating for relocating all the planes who practice their flying maneuvers over our community every day. They originate from Gillespie Field, Montgomery and Brown Field in the South Bay. We are so tired of the constant airplane noise in the skies, but especially concerned about the real possibility of a plane crash above our homes and the potential for crashing into a school, church or business not to mention a private home. We support the efforts that will relocate these private planes including closing down Gillespie Field if necessary. Thanks


Gary Keller April 4, 2022 at 10:11 am
Robert Germann April 4, 2022 at 10:45 am

Brandi, there are 23-30 including a large C-130 Cal Fire tanker aircraft only 10 mins. away from El Cajon at Ramona Airport. If Gillespie was such an asset to the community, then the airport could home the homeless on their 70 acre, vacant, flat, Cajon speedway site. The airport has said no. Is it because the people who own the million-dollar hanger homes would be upset? These are the same people who complained about the noise from the speedway. We were promised a park in exchange for the speedway closure. We got nothing! All the airport did was put the crashes, pollution and noise over OUR homes, not at the airport’s hanger homes.


Nicholas Pipitone April 4, 2022 at 4:46 pm

Re: Brandi’s Valley Fire comments.

I feel her comments about Gillespie Field support for Fire Fighters during the Valley Fire is spot on. Although the fire tankers based at Ramona are close, were ant dispatched to fight the Valley Fire. if they were , I’m not aware. If they were not, there is probably a threat level to which they are dispatched.

The comment on 100LL made by me was simply to note that at present, this is the only grade of fuel available for save operation of General Aviation Reciprocating Engines. The FAA and it’s industry partners are working on an alternative fuel that will provide an acceptable level of safe operation for reciprocating engines. Suffice to say, 100LL will be around a little longer.

Comments about the annual revenue contribution by Gillespie Field. Consider the fact this airport does provide employment in the form of aircraft maintenance businesses, and fueling services Hangar rentals, and aircraft tiedown fees also contribute to the revenues collected. On another note, the Airport Café attracts a very healthy business 7 days per week. Sunday business at the Café has people lined up in the parking area waiting to be seated. In short, there are many Plusses for the existence of Gillespie Field.


Gary Keller April 5, 2022 at 4:06 am

Your comments on 100LL in your first post and this current one are false. It varies, but generally agreed in the industry, that up to 65% of piston driven planes can not only operate on Swift UL94 unleaded fuel which has been available since 2014, but that it is better for their engines.
Similar to it’s predecessor (PAFI) and the much vaunted, ill conceived and aptly named EAGLE initiative (the Bald and Golden eagles are also threatened by environmental lead) are the FAA and it’s industry partners latest attempt to continue the lead poisoning of children until we run out of fossil fuel. Three million children who live near general aviation airports are daily being subjected to 1 million pounds of lead from the air from these aircraft.
As far as all the annual revenue you show at Gillespie Field – it doesn’t add up much to the $403M and 3,164 jobs supported claim from above.


Nicholas Pipitone April 5, 2022 at 12:45 pm

The Swift UL94 you quote is not readily available otherwise you would see a wider distribution. I’ve yet to see a fuel truck delivering UL94. I’m not saying it’s NOT available, but if you can point me to it, please The use of UL94 requires an FAA STC, Supplemental Type Certificate now available from Swift for $100 per aircraft. The current price of $100 is the price after a 75% reduction in the original price. STC’s have also been available in the past for users of Auto Fuels in their aircraft. Fuels requiring an STC prior to use usual mean some form of engine operating limitation such as altitude limitations and required placarding.



Nicholas Pipitone


Gary Keller April 5, 2022 at 2:00 pm

The unleaded aviation fuel known as SwiftUL94 has been available and used safely at 100 airports in the US since about 2014. I point you to the CEO, Chris D’Acosta who can verify that. He also can tell you that he can provide this fuel anywhere in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia if an airport was to ask for it. Currently the closest airport to Gillespie Field in California that it is being used is Reid-Hillview in San Jose, California. It was asked for there because a recent study at Reid-Hillview airport definitively proved that the leaded 100LL fuel has increased the blood lead levels in the children living near that airport. An unprecedented event occurred when Reid-Hillview banned 100LL at this airport on Jan 1 of this year. I care little about costs of STCs. I care a lot about the lead poisoning of children due to use the leaded fuel known as AvGas 100LL. You should too. Gillespie Field uses more fuel than Reid-Hillview used before it was banned there.


Nick April 6, 2022 at 10:29 am

I’m attempting to acquire a copy of the STC. I understand the comments made regarding the STC mentioned earlier. It’s difficult to find the STC itself since the manufacturer of the UL94 wants $100 for the STC and associated placards. It’s correct to say the vast majority of engines are OK with UL94. This fuel may place undesirable restrictions on aircraft performance thus the reason most operators are not using it.


Gary Keller April 7, 2022 at 11:18 am

RE: Nick / Nicholas Pipitone.

Other than the 25% or so of GA piston driven aircraft who cannot use unleaded fuel, which undesirable restrictions do you refer to?


Nick April 7, 2022 at 1:17 pm

Good afternoon Gary: I didn’t specify what the restrictions are. My comment was referring the potential restrictions/limitations. Whenever the FAA requires an STC, Supplemental Type Certificate for something, there is usually some operational restriction or limitation that resulted in the need for the STC. I’m attempting to get a copy of the STC to see exactly what’s in it. Starting to sound like Pelosi.


Nick Pipitone


Robert Germann April 4, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Hi, Gillespie Cafe is the best, but we can do better in El Cajon. Gillespie Field airport is done. R.I.P.
El Cajon is one of the poorest cities in the county with the worst air quality. We need a change for a future in East County. Canidate Stephen Houlahan can see the writing on the wall and is young enough to navigate the change with the help from the citizens. It is a team effort.
Don’t you just love Politics


Robert Germann April 5, 2022 at 7:10 am

Nick Good Morning, thanks to the O.B Rag and you for allowing us to continue this conversation. Gillespie not only has safety issues in the air but on the ground. In 2021 the FAA ordered a Driver Training Program for all people/businesses/employees authorized to be “inside the fence” at Gillespie. A total of 747 people are now authorized to be on airport property. If you subtract 747 from the 3,164 people you quoted, 2,417 people don’t work at Gillespie. These 2,417 jobs are “outside the fence” of the airport at Gillespie’s business parks. The airport uses these misleading job figures to pump up Gillespie’s value to the community. The rents and lease money from businesses that are on both sides of the fence go to Gillespie. For 70 yrs. Gillespie has been robbing the citizens of El Cajon of their most valuable asset, land. East County is a great affordable place to live and raise a family. It would be better without a thieving, toxic, unsafe airport in the middle of it. Stay Cool.


Nick April 5, 2022 at 12:11 pm

To sound like Obama and Biden, ” Let me be clear. I was not the individual who quoted the 3100+ jobs. That appeared before I made any remarks.

Just wanted to make THAT clear.

Thanks for the opportunity,

Nicholas F. Pipitone


Nicholas F. Pipitone April 22, 2022 at 7:23 am

It’s the same old argument. People buy homes next to an airport knowing full well that airplanes make noise yet the buy and ten complain about the noise. The City and County elect to build schools near airports knowing people will complain.

The comments on the Miramar location that only vertical lift aircraft are operating there are patently incorrect. There are F-18 training units located at Miramar. Tens of thousands attend the Annual Airshow at Miramar. No Miramar, no annual Airshow. No airshow, no revenue for the local vendors.

It sounds like Mr. Nobody and his Nobody followers continue to grab at straws with every argument as to why Gillespie Field and Miramar need to go.

In closing, there was earlier mention of unleaded aviation fuel successfully used at some 100 airports around the country. If we discount the 100 airports, there remails 19,800 other airports supplying jet fuel and 100 grade low Lead fuel. There was mention of Reid Hillview Airport in San Jose removing 100 low Lead from their supply. I’d like to see the numbers of GA aircraft owners who have elected to either move their aircraft elsewhere or simply purchase fuel elsewhere.

Best to All,

Nick Pipitone


Robert Germann April 22, 2022 at 11:58 am

Nick, it’s the same old argument from the pilots. We were here first. Aviation at these GA airports has changed, the neighborhoods around these airports have grown it’s called progress. The small propeller planes that once flew around for fun. Have changed to “commercial intent” flight schools or “rating factories” with large jets and helicopters darting in between the school’s aircraft which fly around in circles. Airports are a necessary evil. To mitigate the evil where do you put them and how many airports do we need in San Diego is the question. We have the answer. TGIF


Nicholas F. Pipitone April 22, 2022 at 12:30 pm

To all the anti-San Diego airport groups, ad nauseum, all the subject airports will be around for some time to come. This argument ends with the upcoming elections, and the predicted disappointment of those opposing the subject airports.

BTW, Love those Sunday Morning Breakfasts at the Gillespie Cafe.



Robert Germann April 22, 2022 at 12:49 pm

Nick, Gillespie Cafe is the best. Too bad it’s next to American Aviation Flight Training. You obviously are out of touch with reality with your other statements, we will agree to dis-agree.


Nicholas F. Pipitone April 22, 2022 at 1:26 pm



Nicholas F. Pipitone April 22, 2022 at 4:05 pm

Rober Germann, I’m interested in your comment about American Aviation. Do we know each other from the Cafe?



Robert Germann April 22, 2022 at 5:19 pm

Nick, how about a trade: the San Diego International Airport for Miramar. The Marines would have a new base next to MCRD. The navy would have more dock space and a VTOL airport. (633 acres). The Miramar air show would be held during fleet week along with the navy amphib base and their watercraft with aircraft overhead. (cool). San Diego would have ” A start of the Art World Airport combining G.A. , Gillespie and Montgomery. Gillespie and Montgomery land would be used for housing. Were just swapping airports. Win Win . Jobs, Jobs. Let’s Vote on it.
Go Padres.


Frank Gormlie April 22, 2022 at 7:51 pm

Just a note: the main airport in San Diego is the San Diego International Airport and is no longer called after a Nazi-lover and anti-Semite.


Robert Germann April 24, 2022 at 8:25 am

Good Morning. If you want to follow the P.R. from the San Diego County Airport Authority then you can call it a international airport, which is a joke, go ahead. A 9,000 ft. one runway with EMAS on 633 acres is a regional airport.


Paul Webb May 27, 2022 at 6:15 pm

Well, the airport runway is actually 10,400 feet in length. There is a displaced threshold which shortens the actual usable runway for normal operations, but the entire runway is available if needed. The EMAS at the west end of the runway is a valuable safety feature in the event of an over run, which can happen at any airport regardless of the length of the runway.

On top of that, the airport has for many years safely accommodated all aircraft in the domestic carriers’ fleets (A330, A340, B747, B777, B787, etc.). In fact, I was asked once to do a study for a major foreign carrier that wanted to use SDIA as a diverter airport for the A380. That is, could SDIA be used if LAX was closed for whatever reason? The answer was that it certainly could land, but would have to take off empty of passengers and with a minimum fuel load. Not ideal, but it could have been done. With the exception of the A380, which is being dropped by most of its former users, any plane can be accommodated at SDIA.


Robert Germann May 28, 2022 at 9:29 am

Good morning, Paul, would you please give us your opinion on the pros and cons of a multiple runway airport vs a single runway airport. Just the basics. Thank You.


Paul Webb May 29, 2022 at 3:49 pm

Well, there is really only one pro/con anything having to do with single v. multiple runway airports. The more runways you can have, the more operations (take-offs or landings) you can have. That is a little bit of a simplification, as the runways must be properly spaced and properly configured to have multiple independent operations. If an airport has two parallel runways, in order to get the most capacity out of those runways they have to be far enough apart to have them operate completely independent of each other. Of course, some airports have crosswind runways, as well, but that’s another story.


Robert Germann May 29, 2022 at 8:48 pm

Mr. Paul, Thank You for the opinion. I thought maybe I was missing something. This conversation has been centered about swapping airports. The airport swap would be MCAS (23,000-26,000 acres) for Lindbergh’s (633 acres) The motivation for this swap is planning for the future of San Diego’s aviation needs and the taxpayer costs.


Paul Webb May 30, 2022 at 9:20 am

Realistically, there are only two places left in San Diego County where a regional airport could be built – Miramar and southern Camp Pendleton. I don’t think either are realistic. I participated in the public meetings regarding airport relocation in the early 2000’s, and I can tell you that while I have been involved in some of the more controversial and volatile land use controversies in San Diego none were as ugly as relocation of the airport to Miramar. The public meeting at Scripps Ranch stands out in my mind as I was called a liar to my face multiple times, and I was literally spat at by someone who went to great lengths to tell me how much more intelligent he was compared to me. I received more than one threat of physical violence at this meeting. This was a meeting of “nice” San Diego Suburbanites. One of the worst experiences of my career.

I simply cannot imagine any of our brave and courageous politicians taking up this cause ever again.

Interestingly enough, I do recall a writer (I can’t remember who) who was very well versed on Marine aviation and their needs who made a compelling argument for swapping SDIA for Miramar. Much of his argument was based on the notion that the air activities taking place at Miramar would be more efficiently conducted by splitting up the groups between Camp Pendleton and Yuma. SDIA’s location would be best utilized for a limited number of military operations that would be similar to passenger flights (transport and cargo but not fighter planes and rotary aircraft) but at a greatly reduced frequency. One component of this argument was based on the cost of housing Miramar’s marines and their families, which of course has increased greatly since the writing of that article.

Still, don’t think it’s gonna happen.


Nick Pipitone May 31, 2022 at 10:58 am

Mr. Webb: Your description of how you were treated at the meetings you speak of, speaks volumes of the level of intelligence you were dealing with.

We have uninformed individuals attempting to speak intelligently on subjects they’re uninformed about.



Nicholas F. Pipitone April 24, 2022 at 5:25 pm

Did I respond to this yet?


Buddy Hurl April 22, 2022 at 6:18 pm

A lot of those individuals want a private pilot’s license so they can do dope runs from mexico to the arizona desert, pilot’s got $5,000/a run, dope to the north, dollars back to the south,


Nicholas F. Pipitone April 23, 2022 at 2:40 pm

The dope run comment is irresponsible. Not to say it hasn’t happened, but to say A LOT is irresponsible unless you have absolute proof. Aircraft leaving Mexico are tracked by DEA. If there was a constant A LOT OF patterns of this occurring, A LOT OF would have been caught.

Let’s back some of this stuff up with FACT!!



Robert Germann April 24, 2022 at 8:43 am

Ahh Nick, come on, as a pilot you know the best movies are about fighter jets and drug smugglers using planes. (Top Gun, Miami Vice, American Made, Top Gun). The DEA caught so many pilots, the cartels lost so many tons, the price for smuggling by plane went sky high(pun). Then the cartels start using homemade submarines navigated by fishermen. Fishermen are cheaper than pilots when it comes to smuggling. You must not be a local.


Nicholas F. Pipitone April 24, 2022 at 5:17 pm

Robert, to you know me from somewhere.

Your response sounds as though you misread my comment. Smile

BTW, another great BFAST at the Cafe today. Who do you know there?


Nicholas F. Pipitone May 30, 2022 at 11:49 am

Nothing new since all previous stuff. SOS!


Robert Germann May 31, 2022 at 7:20 am

Good morning Mr. Web, if you would please leave your contact info at: 619-760-0576 Citizens Against Gillespie’s Expansion – Low Flying Aircraft. F/B C.A.G.E. L.F.A. for interested parties.
I want to thank the O.B. Rag for allowing us to discuss this issue in their publication. Robert


Nick May 31, 2022 at 9:13 am

Recent comment on low flying aircraft.

How low was the aircraft? Was it reported to the FAA?

Date, place, time, aircraft number ? etc.


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