Watsonville City Council Votes To Decommission Crosswind Runway


During its Tuesday meeting, the Watsonville, California City Council narrowly voted 4-3 in favor of decommissioning the crosswind runway at Watsonville Municipal Airport (KWVI).

Tuesday’s vote comes after months of deliberation over whether to shorten the runway or deactivate it entirely—a process that could take up to four years. In October, airport staff were notified that the runway would no longer meet funding eligibility requirements from the FAA since it was classified an “additional runway.” Moreover, a report to explore the airport’s growth potential noted that Watsonville’s crosswind runway only accounted for 4% of the airport’s total operations in 2022 and 2023.

Still, advocates argued the crosswind runway serves as a significant asset for pilots, especially given KWVI’s unique geography. The Watsonville Pilots Association noted that from a safety perspective, the crosswind runway acts as a reliever when the main runway becomes unsafe due to the marine layer covering—a common scenario throughout the year.

During discussions, some 30 people including airport tenants and city council members spoke in favor of keeping the runway while two asked for its closure, according to the WPA. The group also gathered more than 750 signatures from local community members and businesses in support of a compromise option to shorten the runway.

Despite these efforts, the council ultimately decided to proceed with decommissioning the runway. Officials supporting its closure cited opportunities for economic development, namely residential housing, which heavily influenced their decision.

WPA told AVweb it “strongly opposed” the council’s decision, writing, “Shortening the runway would have solved an FAA line-of-sight issue and would also open up a significant area for housing development in the reduced runway protection zones. Their decision was based on the optimistic premise that decommissioning the runway could allow significantly more development and would not adversely affect the safety of flight operations at Watsonville.”

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. This “additional runway” bologna badly needs journalistic attention, because crosswind runways are getting closed all over the place. Once the FAA gives it this designation, it’s no longer, for all intents and purposes, possible to get Federal funds for maintenance. Hence, they get closed. How does the FAA make that determination? It’s messy, but involves calculation of crosswind components based on weather records; if it’s too low, no money. The details are messy, but the fatal gist is that they take a daily wind AVERAGED OVER 24 HOURS. Any nincompoop knows that winds are calmer at 2 am than 2 pm. When are recreational flyers more likely to be active? Our local E-W runway experiences 10-20 kt south or southwest winds most of time when it’s nice afternoon flying weather. But, averaged over 24 hours, it looks like nothing. Hence, our attempts to open up our old N-S runway was shot down because of costs too high for our county to bear alone. I don’t get out that much, but I know of 3 other area airports that will be closing cross runways for similar reasons. The Big Boys don’t care and as one local Board member stated to me: “You don’t burn enough fuel to have a say.”

    • Stupid policy on the part of the FAA but getting them to change their procedure will take years. In the meantime it’s going to be more of the same.

      • Years? Nope.
        Sunday is the anniversary of plowing Meigs Field.
        The mayor here could also just plow “X’s” into the runway & be done with it.
        It’s been done so evidently it’s legal.

        • Eventually, there will be a crash due to all this nonsense and the mayor responsible better hope he has wide support and excellent legal counsel.

          • The NTSB will not fault the mayor for a pilot’s poor weather planning. If you plan to an airport that you cannot land or takeoff safely from, it’s your fault.

  2. KWVI experiences heavy fog in the late spring to Summer months. Runway 9/27 is very important for VFR late afternoon arrivals or departures as this cross-wind runway is parallel to the fog bank. When the dew point drops fast, pilots have another couple of hours before getting socked-in like the primary runway 02/20.

    There is a lot of open acreage in Watsonville and land with derelict shopping centers to redevelop. Instead the city wants to close part of the airport.

    BTW, Fact: Shortening 09/27 costs $500K and can be paid for using the airport fund and still build 85% of the houses. Closing it costs over $1M and must come from city general fund diverting from other services.

    • But but but all those new houses add to the tax base! In this case the politicians can’t be accused of thinking short term re: their revenue stream.

      • Actually, if you explore the concept of “Cost of Community Services” (COCS) you’ll see that residential housing really does not “pay it’s own way” in terms of tax revenue generated per dollar of expenses required to conserve that community. In fact, the costs imposed by residential development in most areas of the USA are subsidized by other uses such as farms, forests, and industrial development.

        I mention this not because it’s an argument directly FOR airports (many airports are owned by some government entity or another and pay no taxes). I mention it because the idea that many promote that residential development “expands the tax base” (it does), and that that expansion lessens the burden on the rest of us (in almost all cases, it does NOT: it increases costs by more than it brings in in tax revenue).

        This is a case often successfully made when there is push back against conserving farm or forest land: developers inaccurately claim that a proposed new residential development will help lessen our individual taxes by “spreading the burden” among a larger tax base. In most cases, that presumption is false.

  3. Closing the crossing runway for land development is simply the camel’s nose under the tent. When the new housing is completed and filled up with families, the noise complaints will begin and the developers will be circling again wanting to close the whole airport.

  4. Nowhere in the story is the state mentioned….would it have been too much effort to add that little detail? (California, FWIW)

    Thanks in advance….

  5. Also KWVI is the only airport in all of Santa Cruz County California. Hopefully the FAA will help, but not likely. They seem impenitent to do much when saving an airport.

  6. Came to pile on the “would it have killed you to mention it was CA”, staying to note:

    “Officials supporting its closure cited opportunities for economic development, namely residential housing, which heavily influenced their decision.”

    Residential housing replacing the xwnd runway, what could go wrong? The FAA seems to have a thing about crosswind runways. At least my local airport was alert enough to fill the space with airport and commercial use after the FAA refused to fund xwnd rwy rehab. The airport community might want to get on the zoning issues, and make sure the realtors and residence purchasers are fully informed, because we all know what the next chapter of this is.

    • IKR! One minute the continued flights will create a hazard, but the next minute the decades of previous flights have left no trace.

  7. Closing a runway so more residential development can occur? No way that can go wrong.
    Realtor: Oh that little airport? Don’t worry, it won’t be there long.

    • OK
      Step 1: Developers grease the skids with fine wine.
      Step 2: Politicans vote in their favor.
      Step 3: Homes built.
      Step 4: Residents form coalition/complain about noise.
      Step 5: Airport is closed.
      Step 6: Repeat elsewhere.

  8. “Watsonville’s crosswind runway only accounted for 4% of the airport’s total operations in 2022 and 2023.”

    Yes, this is a badly needed resource that MUST BE SAVED!!! The FAA should DEMAND that taxpayers fork over the dough to fund a runway that gets used less than one hour a day.

    • If it’s the hour you need to land, that’s kind of an important thing. How about we close the road to your house just one hour a day? Certainly not an inconvenience.

  9. Does the backup city ambulance or fire truck get used more than 1 hour per day. Maybe sell them also. Silly comment.

  10. We are losing GA, period. The erosion is death by a thousand cuts and my fear is that there is little we can do about it. 4% sounds like an insignificant number, but if I am in an emergency situation where I need to get down and weather conditions have closed the ‘main’ runway, my only safe option might be the 4% runway. I know that’s a stretch, but it’s possible. Non-pilots do not understand our situation… however, my guess is that if we threatened the opposition’s past-time, hobby, recreation, livelihood, or whatever you wish to call it, their response would be similar to ours.

  11. Make room for residential developments. Next to an airport. In ten years time, watch those residents complain about the noise and get the airport shut down. Business as usual.

  12. This is the beginning of the end of Watsonville Airport. If you’ve never been, visit now. Take pictures. Just a matter of time before it’s featured on Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields.

  13. “So an old man in cargo shorts has to drive his Silverado a few more miles to take his private jet up for a joyride…” is how the public support is built for shortsighted airport closures.