FAA Defends Silicon Valley Airport


The FAA is warning officials in Silicon Valley they face a long expensive battle to close an important reliever airport for San Jose’s Mineta Airport. According to AOPA, Santa Clara County supervisors have voted to stop taking federal Airport Improvement Fund grants to begin the process of timing out the obligations that come with them. Assuming they continue to refuse the money, they could close Reid-Hillview Airport without sanction in 2031. The plan is to use the land for housing, including low-income units.

The FAA has written a letter to the supervisors reminding them they have to maintain the busy airport, which has several flight schools and numerous other businesses along with a large based aircraft population, in safe condition until then. It estimates that will cost the county about $10 million a year. It would also have to get another local airport in nearby San Martin ready to take the aircraft and businesses displaced by the closure. They would have to spend tens of millions of dollars to accommodate the closure refugees, including building a second runway, adding lights and navaids and a tower. “We appreciate the County’s interest in finding adequate locations to build low income housing, however, we ask the Board to also consider the adverse impacts of closing RHV,” the agency said in its letter.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I’m pretty sure there was a time in history when California lead the way in aviation development. Now it feels like California wants to lead the way in aviation closures.

  2. “the plan is to use the land for housing, including low-income units.”

    Why not just plow under a freeway and a few business parks to do the same thing?
    Same lame logic AND it would lower state co2 emissions even more.

  3. This is Santa Monica Part Deux. The value of real estate in these areas of California is calculated by the square foot and the highest-and-best use of that land is not an airport; especially one in the shadow of KSJC. It will be sad to see KRHV close, as it is with KSMO.
    It’s all about dollars and cents and we have to learn to live with it.
    Doesn’t mean we can’t bitch about it, though…

  4. I wish the FAA was this thoughtful and responsive to the Meigs debacle as they are regarding the Reid-Hillview Airport. Apparently, the California county supervisors presently do not have the courage to use, or have access to bulldozers to carve “X’s” at 3AM in the runways as Chicago’s mayor Richard Daley did.

    If this old news gets out to these folks, a few million dollars for a slap on the wrist fine will be chump change to them. The FAA gets a few more million dollars to use as they please, the Santa Clara county officials get what they want…and another airport goes bye bye for perceived better land use. Plus the bonus is doing this in only a matter of a few hours rather than waiting till 2031. All of this will be followed by more “urban mobility”, V-TOL pie in the sky, fantasy stories.

    Oh wait, this is housing for the poor…oops, no V-TOL, urban mobility for them. Only business people, meaning handsome men with five o’clock shadows, wearing suit coats with jeans, accompanied by equally beautiful, hip phone/tablet toting women, are the demographics targeted by the “urban mobility” crowd as demonstrated by all the virtual reality, artist rendered, advertisements so far. No patrons in any of these futuristic concept videos are seen being whisked off to Section 8 housing from the local Walmart parking lot.

  5. It’s nice to see the FAA sticking up for the airport and the logic for closing it is flawed. There are plenty of other areas for low income housing. This is all a self absorbed means by many to remove a viable airport under the guise of ‘safety and health’. Even one of the commissioners who spoke in favor of the airport (his jurisdiction is E16) said there are many other places for low income housing, including a former golf course just out of view in the lower portion of the photo and the defunct county fairgrounds. For those based at RHV, there is no other viable place to go, other than to uproot and move entirely out of the area. It’s nearly an hour to E16 in traffic from most of the bay area and there’s no way they’re going to put a tower and two runways (where will the second go?) in at E16 and accommodate all this traffic. It’ll be one heck of a battle with the community surrounding the airport to let any expansion happen. And a more frequently used IFR approach into E16 will really mess up SJC’s flow.

  6. Housing is a complete red herring.
    1) There’s no shortage of building sites for affordable housing; there’s merely a shortage of developers willing to built it.
    2) Nothing can be built at RHV for at least twenty years. The county is legally obligated to operate the airport until 2031 (though they’ll try to starve it to death sooner); then there will be years of litigation, outcome uncertain.
    3) The Supervisors’ resolution of last December that throws Reid-Hillview under the bus contains no mention of housing, affordable or otherwise; it’s simply a blank check made out to the valley’s real-estate developers.

  7. Will this be the same FAA “defense” playbook as for KSMO, KCGX, or any number of lesser know airports that are known only to history and aging memories now? Doesn’t seem like anything but a friendly reminder to adhere to their grant obligations until they don’t have to. Otherwise the lawyers will have to do some work, but in the end the bulldozers will still roll…