Runway Repair Update

As the delays go on and the long-awaited re-opening of our runway gets pushed back again and again, it's easy and natural to want to blame someone for our frustrations and losses. And there will be a time for that. But for now all that really matters is getting our airport back, so our focus has been on trying to learn more about the revised timeline and when we might expect to be able to fly again. The County's weekly updates have provided a teasing glimpse into the problems without giving the full story, mainly because the story's being re-written almost every day by new developments and negotiations.

We’ve learned more about the situation through ongoing, back-channel conversations with people with the County and the contractor, and here's what we've learned in the past few days leading to the publication of this newsletter on Friday, November 10:

  • The subgrade (with the naturally-occurring asbestos-laden Serpentine rock) has been covered by a "sub-base" of aggregate. The asbestos exposure is now mostly contained, and the contractor can now work under less-stringent protective procedures.
  • This "sub-base" was being rolled on Tuesday, graded on Wednesday.
  • Next up is work on the shoulder of the runway, and there's some back-and-forth going on between the County and the contractor as to what that work looks like and includes. In the past (with this and other projects with the County) this contractor's response to any development that might not work in their favor contractually is to walk off the job. We've seen them do just that in at least two instances on the project, and it's entirely possible that this might be another occurrence.
  • The next step after that is the actual paving of the runway surface, a step which will require the contractor to truck in aggregate (the cost of which was the cause of one of the work stoppages already). There's a catch here, too-the quarry, in San Rafael, works only M-F and has a limit on the number of trucks that it can service on a given day. As there are already several other large construction projects going on in Marin County, it's possible that the contractor may not be able to get enough aggregate from within the County and may have to go outside the County for more. Additional expense, another negotiation, the possibility of another work stoppage. The County's trying to get ahead of this, but we won't know if they've been successful in their negotiations until the contractor shows up on site and starts working the next morning.

We're learning more each day, so if you'd like another update or you'd just like to come vent, join us for coffee and bagels/donuts Saturday morning at 9:00 in the pilot's lounge.

Aviation Explorers Chapter

On Sunday, November 5th, our new Aviation Explorer Post had their first meeting.  Pieter Colenbrander and Ernie Ganas took 7 kids, ages 14 to 16, to the Oakland Airport Tower and Tower Training Facility. 

Oakland used to have two towers, one for the North and one for the South fields, but a new modern tower was constructed a few years ago between both fields.  The new tower is filled with state of the art equipment and at 250 feet tall, it has a full view of both the North and South fields from one location.  In the tower the kids got to see the controllers in action, while getting a birds eye view of the landing and departing aircraft on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. After a tour of the tower itself, they went over to the tower training facility at the North field.  The training facility has a full working simulator that can simulate up to 16 different towers in the Bay Area, complete with incoming and outgoing traffic, as well as ground operations.  The kids got to put on a headset and work the radar screens as simulated Southwest jets with crossing VFR traffic landed and departed.

The next meeting of the Explorer Post will be right after our January GFCA breakfast meeting and some of the kids may also be able to make it to breakfast.  Let’s all show them a warm welcome.