Over the last several weeks, there have been a few articles and letters to the editor in the Record Gazette regarding the city’s continued efforts to close and redevelop the Banning Municipal Airport.
It should come as no surprise the city is pushing forward with what we believe will be a beneficial long-term project, as the city council overwhelmingly passed a resolution on April 25, 2017 “declaring that it shall be a goal of the city of Banning to close the Banning Municipal Airport as soon as legally permitted.”
Given the expected long-term economic impacts associated with the property’s redevelopment, the city continues to support the airport’s closure.
In the Banning Airport Feasibility Study commissioned by the city, ECONSolutions by HdL analyzed and evaluated the airport’s current effectiveness as a land use and looked at the “highest and best” land use for the future.
While there are many important considerations raised in that report, we thought it prudent to reiterate why the city council continues to support the resolution passed in 2017.
Continued Decline in Air Traffic: The study commissioned by the city showed a drop in flights from 2010 to 2015 of 71.7 percent and there has been no uptick in the number of annual flights at the airport. In fact, in 2019, the airport only saw 1,279 flights, a 72.6 percent decrease from the number of flights recorded in 2010.
Further, in a normal year, the city estimated that 75 to 80 percent of the takeoffs and landings originate from a single operation at the airport.
That operation relies on frequent takeoffs and landings for its business model.
Deficit in the operating costs and cost to taxpayers: The deficit in the airport budget has been a challenge for the city for several years.
The average deficit from 2014/2015 to 2018/2019 was $131,211.
Currently, there are 16 aircraft housed at the airport.
The city is unaware of any of the aircraft being owned by individuals who call Banning home with the exception of one small business. Further, while the city council wishes to see every business succeed in the community, given the flight data above, it is difficult to justify the consistent financial deficit of the airport where more than three-quarters of the traffic is generated by one business and aircraft owners who do not reside in Banning. When the airport runs a deficit, our community’s taxpayers shoulder the burden.
Fire protection: Much has been made of the airport’s use during fire events in the Pass.
While the airport has been used for events such as the Apple Fire in 2020 and Cranston Fire in 2018, the airport was not used during the El Dorado Fire this year.
Further, during fire events, no fixed wing aircraft use the airport, as the length of the runway does not support those aircraft.
Additionally, the outside resources are brought to the airport to support fire events.
Given that helicopters — which have only sporadically used the airport during past fire events — do not require a runway for takeoffs, landings, refueling, or water pickups, there are other suitable areas within the city that could be used for similar purposes that are not located in an area suitable for long-term growth.
For example, in light of the recent Apple Fire, Southern California Edison established an emergency yard north of major development that has been used by heavy machinery, equipment, and helicopters to repair power poles in the region.
Since the Banning Municipal Airport has been used for purposes for which an airport is not uniquely suited and for which the city has other areas that would meet current requirements, we believe the city can continue to accommodate firefighting mission requirements using other city property not ripe for economic development activities.
Make no mistake, the city council supports the safety and wellbeing of our community.
In addition to the United States Forest Service’s Airtanker Base at the San Bernardino International Airport, the city is fortunate, in the sense of fire protection, to have airports nearby in Hemet, Redlands, Palm Springs and at March Air Force Base.
Unfortunately, those airports are also competitors when it comes to attracting business to the airport.
We are fortunate to be your elected representatives on the Banning City Council. You elected us to make hard choices. While we would love to see a thriving airport and many of our staff have devoted time and resources in an effort to make that desire a reality, we believe it is in the best interest of the city to continue seeking to redevelop the Banning Municipal Airport so that the property generates revenue for our residents’ benefit and brings jobs to our city.
Finally, we appreciate the support that Congressman Raul Ruiz has provided to the city of Banning in our efforts to close the airport. As he said in his press release on July 23, 2020, his aim in introducing the bill is to complement the city’s efforts.
We appreciate his partnership and support at the federal level to accomplish this goal of the city council for the benefit of all Banning’s residents.
Mayor Daniela Andrade, Mayor Pro tem Colleen Wallace, councilmember David Happe, councilmember Kyle Pingree and councilmember Art Welch