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.