Continuing the long-term battle over the future of Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, California, the Santa Clara County board of supervisors in California unanimously voted to take steps to shutter the airfield sooner than grant obligations currently permit and prohibit leaded aviation gasoline fueling there in the meantime.
The vote in August, which followed hours of debate, came on the heels of a report conducted by data science consulting firm Mountain Data Group that found higher blood lead levels in children who live closer to the airport. It also came despite an appeal from San Jose Mayor Samuel Liccardo to proceed cautiously, fearing that premature closure would divert general aviation aircraft to other San Jose airports such as Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (KSJC).
In a letter to the board of supervisors, Liccardo expressed concern that such a move ahead of developing adequate alternatives would push general aviation aircraft—and lead exposure—to more densely populated areas. He also expressed concerns about the safety implications of mixing more general aviation aircraft at KSJC.
But Liccardo also stressed he’s long been an advocate of closing the facility. “I have publicly and consistently supported the closure of Reid-Hillview Airport. To whatever extent the county’s most recent lead study confirms safety and community health concerns, its closure seems all the more imperative,” he said.
Grant obligations would require that the airport remain open until 2031, but Reid-Hillview, a general aviation strip with parallel 3,100-foot runways, has had a lack of support from Santa Clara leadership for years. In fact, the FAA issued a compliance letter in February over concerns that the county has not made necessary safety upgrades at the facility. In the letter, the agency warned that even though the county stopped accepting federal Airport Improvement Grant funds, it is still under obligation to maintain the facility through 2031.
As for the leaded fuel concerns, Swift Fuels in August began delivery of its newly FAA-approved UL94 to the facility, a move advocates are hoping can help preserve its future.