In a narrative report prepared for the county of San Diego Department of Public works, prepared by P&D Aviation, a division of P&D Consultants, Inc. in Orange, California, yearly aircraft operation at Gillespie Filed are projected at approximately 258,670 operations by 2025, or 88 percent of all the airport’s operation. Most of these operations will be by single engine piston aircraft, along with multi engine piston aircraft, business jets, helicopters and other aircraft.
The oldest and largest of the county’s eight airports, it is well on its way to becoming the local aerotropolis in East County. Gillespie Field is home to nine flight schools, flying clubs and three aviation museums. In 2013, the aerotropolis concept received a $50,000 grant from the San Diego Foundation Malin Burnham Center for Civic engagement through the East County Economic Development Council, to develop a strategic roadmap to strengthen businesses around the airport, most of which will support the aviation industry at Gillespie Field.
Gillespie Field and two airport industrial parks generate an estimated $403 million in direct economic impact and support 3,164 jobs in the city of El Cajon. These activities generate an estimated $919 million in direct, indirect and induced economic impacts and support 6,250 jobs, throughout San Diego County. The airport is home to flight schools, repair and maintenance shops, aircraft storage, aircraft sales and rental services, fuel, instrument and avionics shops, and food and beverage services.
At the March 17 Gillespie Field Development Council meeting, Cathe Johnson gave the Airport Manager update. In January, there were 12,480 operations in which there were two noise complaints, 146 of those operations were overnight with no complaints. February had 15,452 operations with two complaints, 284 of those were overnight with no complaints.
Air traffic from pilots in training at Gillespie Field have long been a point of contention in East County, with several groups from El Cajon, Fletcher Hills and Lakeside complaining of air traffic above their communities. The major contentions are the noise the training aircraft make and the danger present in training new pilots over community areas.
Nearly a year ago, Alpine resident Ronald Ripperger bought his property in Alpine to begin his vineyard, has since, built his home on the property and moved in, but continues to form a larger group to contest the constant flow of aircraft over Alpine from Gillespie Field, and Montgomery and Brown fields.
“The planes have just continued, but we have gotten more people into the group that are interested, including an attorney, all who have planes constantly flying over their properties,” said Ripperger.
Since then, the core group of about six people met with Congressman Daryl Issa’s office, showed them its new website they built to bring more awareness to the problem and requested the congressman help them with dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration, falling under the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“We have a core group of about six people, but more and more, we are getting complaints from all over Alpine as we try and bring awareness and other people into the group to see if there is anything that we can do about this,” said Ripperger. “We sent a letter to Dianne Jacob, she referred us to Gillespie Field, who referred us to the FAA. We are trying to get Supervisor Joel Anderson involved. We have sent letters, emails to the FAA and they basically say that there is nothing that they can do. Everyone we talk to points to the FAA.”
Ripperger said, the group, now called HELPP over Alpine, said its goal is to turn into a nonprofit but is now waiting on direction from its attorney to see what the best course of action for the growing group of residents concerned about the number of flights over Alpine.
“On the weekends in general it is not as bad,” he said. “There tend to be not as many planes in the mornings, but as the afternoon ramps up the planes really start flying over. They fly right up until sunset. I have termed the term “rush hour,” as you hit about 4 p.m., they start coming in two to four planes at a time and cycle over Wright’s Field which they call the dirt patch. They do their maneuvers and go east near Viejas, over our homes starting more prominent around noon until sunset.”
Ripperger said it is a group of residents who are trying to relocate these planes, private, small planes to another area where you do not have the population below it.
“It is a group of concerned citizens in Alpine who are really, their quality of life, and I do not mean this lightly, are being affected by the constant planes flying over. It is not just over Alpine, it is the Willows, towards Pala Verde, Japatul Valley, south in Alpine Heights.”
“Our goal is to get these planes to practice somewhere else where there is not the community below,” he continued. “We do not have a problem with the military, commercial planes, or planes that are just flying through the area. It is the constant hovering. They spend 30 to 40 minutes maneuvering over Alpine. Then you add more planes, and it begins driving you nuts after a while.”
Ripperger said the group has been documenting planes flying over Alpine using Flightradar24, a real-time flight tracker map.
“We have a lot of planes from Montgomery Field and some now from Brown’s Field also. Some days we get more planes from Montgomery than we do Gillespie.”
Ripperger said its goal now is to get people to register at its new website it launched three weeks ago and gather as many people as they can in the area so that they have numbers behind them as they look for ways to continue action by sending letters, emails to local politicians, hoping that they can help affect a change for them through the FAA.
“We want to gather enough people so that they will take notice and understand that we really do have a problem here. If people sign up, we will get them involved in the process and keep them up to date,” he said.
“We are monitoring the data coming in as we tweak the website. We will gather as many people as we can, then decide what actions that we can take.”