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SLO County Regional Airport’s 20-year master plan includes airfield changes

The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is working on a 20-year master required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to meet safety standards and to request funding for future projects.
Posted at 11:38 AM, Feb 16, 2023

The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is working on a 20-year master plan required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to meet safety standards and request funding for future projects.

In 2022, a record 553,425 passengers traveled through the airport.

“It’s easy to find everything, real good signage, just in and out,” said Chris Chandler, who was using traveling through the airport for the first time.

The previous record for the airport was in 2019 with 544,755 passengers.

“I love this airport. It's easy, people are friendly, security's like super easy,” said Linda Sachs who frequently travels through the SLO Airport.

While the airport is efficient as it is, it has to think about the future.

“You know that the master plan update is exciting for the airport because it's really like I said, a 20-year roadmap into the future,” said Courtney Pene, San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport Deputy Director of Planning and Outreach. “We recognize the fact that we are at a critical component to the prosperity of the region, and by completing this master plan, we're really committing to the region that we're going to be here for the long haul, and we want to operate to our highest potential.”

For starters, the airport is trying to upgrade from a Group 2 to a Group 3 airport to fit bigger aircraft.

“Commercial airlines are experiencing a regional pilot shortage, and so they are up-gauging to larger aircraft,” Pene explained.

The 6,100-foot runway will not expand, but the airport is considering relocating the air traffic control tower.

“By moving the air traffic control tower, we would create additional space on our apron to accommodate larger aircraft for the commercial airlines,” Pene said.

In the next 20 years, we may no longer have runway 7-25.

“We are currently recommending the closure of the crosswind runway, which is 7-25, and that's just due to lack of utilization,” Pene added.

What does the general aviation community have to say?

“From a general aviation perspective, it doesn't make a difference to me. The airport is well-managed, it's well-run, it's very safe the way it is now,” said pilot Don Ernst. “The FAA has some requirements that they would like to see some changes made at this airport.”

Lloyd Marcum is a pilot and owner of the charter airline MarcAir.

“It's a shorter runway, and it's rarely convenient for the winds here in San Luis Obispo,” he said about runway 7-25.

Eliminating runway 7-25 would mean more room for hangars.

Marcum believes this would help support more local pilots who struggle to find a spot to store their aircraft.

“I think that would allow more of the smaller air traffic to operate permanently out of here,” he said. “I think, presently, a lot of those planes are going either to Paso Robles or Santa Maria in order to find the proper storage that they need.”

For Ernst, a big concern is funding.

“Hopefully, the traveling public and general aviation pilots will not be paying for the airport expansion if it occurs,” he said.

The cost of this master plan is estimated to be about $200 million.

Pene said about 90% of the funding will come from the FAA and the rest from the airport.

The next step in the master plan is approval from the Airport Land Use Commission this spring. Then it goes to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

To sign up for progress updates on the airport's website, click here.