Letter: Asphalt worth fighting for
The intended purpose of this letter is to reach as many people as possible regarding the closure of the agricultural runway at Madera Municipal Airport. Many of us who are personally invested in the airport feel that we have been circumvented, and that our voices are not being heard. As a business owner located on the field, I believe it is important that the public understand what this runway closure means, not only to myself, but to our local aviation community as a whole.
I was born and reared in Madera; I graduated Madera High School in 2004, and went on to earn my Bachelor of Science Degree at Fresno State in 2011. During my time as a college student, I acquired my first “real job” as a secretary for Bode Enterprise — a general aviation maintenance and repair shop located at the Madera Airport. It was 2005, and I was 19 years old.
I continued my employment throughout my college career, and decided to stay on after graduation until my boss, Mike, decided he was ready to retire. One thing lead to another, and in 2013 I took over ownership of the maintenance shop under a new name: Red-Tail Aviation. The decision to stay was easy: I had already been at the airport for 8 years, I knew the ins-and-outs of the business, and our customers and other local airport enthusiasts had all become family. The Madera Municipal Airport had become my home, and it only felt natural to stay.
Red-Tail Aviation is going on six years now, and doing well; yet the closure of the agricultural runway represents a bad omen to the future of our airport, and therefore my livelihood. A strong majority of my customers are either farmers themselves or employed in the ag industry, and this runway closure is anticipated to have only negative effects on their businesses. Others like myself, being located on the airport, are concerned about safety: crop dusters and corporate jets sharing a runway is a recipe for a potential disaster.
Safety issues aside (but not dismissed), the closure of the agricultural runway also signals the encroachment of development around the airport. The city has already begun construction on a fire station in the path of the ag runway, anticipating its closure. But the fire station is only a harbinger for our airport’s real troubles ahead: the projected construction of more than 10,000 homes in the traffic pattern of the airport is distressing. Those of us in the community see nothing but noise complaints, airport use restrictions and increased hazards in our future (for both aircraft and future homeowners).
I realize that many of these potential issues will not develop overnight, but I am young enough in my career to still be here at the airport when they do arise. The fact that we as airport tenants were not notified of the runway closure until three days before the Aug. 21 city council meeting is disheartening (especially when faced with the realization that the decision was made back in 2015), and perpetuates our feelings of neglect by the city. We have one of the nicest airports in the Central Valley, and I believe that most people do not realize how important our airport is, both to the City of Madera and surrounding counties.
I hope that in writing this letter I have shed some light on a relatively small, but largely important, part of our community and the challenges we are facing. We will continue to be a voice for our airport at city council meetings, and any other platforms we can access, but we can ultimately do little without general public’s shared knowledge and concern for safety and the security of our agricultural industry. The ag runway at Madera Municipal Airport may seem insignificant to most, but its value to both the aviation community and the county as a whole cannot be understated, and it is truly 3,700 feet of asphalt worth fighting for.
— Lauren Tysland,