Watsonville Eyes Closing Crosswind Runway


City officials and pilots at Watsonville Municipal Airport (KWVI) are at odds on the future of the airport’s crosswind runway. After unanimously approving the airport’s first Master Plan update in 20 years, city officials are entertaining options to shorten the crosswind runway or close it entirely in favor of development. 

According to Airport Director Rayvon Williams, the FAA noted the airport’s shorter crosswind Runway 09/27 did not meet federal visibility standards for intersecting runways and therefore the agency would not provide funding for economic reasons. Additionally, the FAA no longer considers Runway 09/27 to be a “crosswind runway” but rather an “additional runway.”

AOPA has stated that the FAA’s reluctance to provide funding for the upkeep and preservation of crosswind runways when the primary runway covers 95 percent or more of wind coverage appears to be a growing trend. Given Watsonville Airport’s primary Runway 02/20 provides acceptable crosswind coverage more than 98 percent of the time, the airport would have to look to other sources for funding. 

Local news outlet The Pajaronian reported Williams saying that just 2 percent of the roughly 60,000 annual flights utilize the crosswind runway, although he believes it’s an important asset. A crosswind runway is key to safety. So closing that runway is really an anathema to me because it really does reduce the utility of the airport,” said Williams. 

Some city council members are eyeing economic development, as shortening the runway by 1,590 feet or closing it would significantly reduce the airport safety zones allowing for more construction such as some 451-631 new housing units. But not all are on board. 

The Watsonville Pilots Association (WPA) told AVweb it takes issue with the city’s current efforts, writing “WPA considers runway 09/27 essential to enhance the safety of airport operations at Watsonville in light of KWVI’s volume, kinds of operations, and KWVI’s unique geography close to the Pacific Ocean.”

The association went on to say that a prevalent marine layer would make KWVI frequently unusable should Runway 09/27 be shortened or closed. “The marine layer, a low layer of coastal stratus, often effectively closes runway 02/20 not only to VFR traffic, but also to IFR traffic as the layer’s bases are frequently below approach minimums. Runway 09/27 runs parallel to the face of the marine layer and allows for continued VFR operations, even at times when the marine layer covers a large portion of runway 20,” according to the WPA. 

The city plans to further discuss the matter in March while the WPA says it is willing to negotiate alternatives to appease the airport and community.  

AVweb reached out to the city council but did not hear back. 

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.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Oh no. They can’t fund crosswind runways or other additional airport upgrades and updates here in the USA. But they can fund other countries instead.

    One of the runways at my airport has been closed for 10 years. No money for repairs, upgrades or replacement. But they found money to move the Casino from one sector of town to another.

  2. Crosswind runways are quickly getting closed all over the country, basing on that wind “analysis” for funding. It’s deeply flawed in that they take a 24 hour average to get a number. Certainly here in the Midwest and likely most other places too, for a typical day most the the summer, wind is much calmer at night than during the day and from the south rather than a more normal west. Hence, during our good flying season, a robust 45-90 degree crosswind on an E-W runway, 10 am – 6 pm, day after day. But average in the other calm 16 hours and it shows up as inconsequential.

    • Really? 24 hours is the parameter for decision making? That is unacceptable. Given the pace of government decision making, a one year average, over four seasons, would not impact the time frame by much and would give a reliably accurate average. You would think crosswind runways had been established for good reasons, but somebody apparently “knows better” now.

  3. Frequently fog stations off the end of runway 02, preventing primary runway 20 VFR departures or arrivals.

    Crosswind runway 09/27 lays parallel to the fog enabling an additional 2 hours or more of VFR operations.

    Very unfortunate turn of events to close crosswind runway 09/27!

  4. Me thinks that it’s going to take a fatality to get the powers that be to rethink their decisions.

    It’s unfortunate, but very true.

    • Even more unfortunate is that those same powers that be will just say “see, this airport is a risk, we just need to close it”, rather than “sorry, we were wrong, we’ll reverse our decision”.

  5. “closing it would significantly reduce the airport safety zones allowing for more construction such as some 451-631 new housing units”

    Does anyone see the noise complaints of those 451-631 home owners…?

    • That’s the money shot in this story. Dig past the “excuses” and explanations…how much additional revenue will the town political cabal be able to generate…that’s the reason…everything else being equal. Happens from the local to the federal, nay, to the global level.

      Money talks.

  6. This is the classic camel’s nose under the tent scenario. They close the crosswind runway for “safety” reasons, and build 5-600 houses or apartments in the new found land. Then, the dummies that move into those dwellings suddenly “discover” there is a noisy airport nearby and the noise complaints begin. Finally, the developers and complaining neighbors convince city council, who already sees tax dollars from the land, to close the airport and build even more housing. By not supporting the crossing runway, the FAA is complicit in this, but they really don’t care since it is just another “little airport”. That runway was built for a reason, which probably still exits today. But when dollars are involved, those reasons get conveniently forgotten.

  7. Utilization of 09/27 has been undoubtedly been suppressed due to prohibitions on departures off of 27. The official reason is that hangars block visibility of traffic on the other runway. The fact is that 27 is quite often the best option for departure when the stratus line is encroaching on the departure from runway 20. It’s hard to visualize a conflict with traffic departing runway 27 with traffic on the approach to 02, or even traffic landing on 20. There’s probably 2,500′ of runway 27 before the intersection with 02/20–plenty of room for departing aircraft to be airborne before reaching crossing. When the Antique Fly-in was hosted in Watsonville, SOP was for VFR arrivals to 20 and VFR departures off of 27–with no tower.