Unbiased Analysis of Hillsboro Airport Needed

On 1/25/13 an article by Jim Redden, Airport Fight May Have Rough Landing, appeared in the Hillsboro Tribune. Thankfully, the Hillsboro Tribune's publisher, John Schrag, gave Oregon Aviation Watch an opportunity to respond.

HIO is a general aviation reliever airport, where roughly 90 percent of the annual take-offs and landings are either flight training operations or recreational flights. There is no scheduled commercial air carrier passenger service at this airport.

Unbiased Analysis of Hillsboro Airport Needed
(Hillsboro Tribune Guest Column)

By Miki Barnes
President of Oregon Aviation Watch
February 8, 2013

The mission of Oregon Aviation Watch is to enhance and protect the quality of life for Oregon residents by eliminating the adverse impacts of aviation activity. OAW formed as a non-profit after a few citizens succeeded in winning several legal challenges including an appeal of a Hillsboro Airport(HIO) zoning ordinance determined by LUBA to be unconstitutional - a ruling which was subsequently upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

In addition, a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision deemed an environmental assessment for a proposed third runway at HIO to be deficient. These wins were made possible by generous community members who donated over $19,000 to cover legal costs.

The Tribune referred to OAW as "tiny" and "miniscule." To municipal corporations like the Port of Portland and the City of Hillsboro, that utilize public money to promote unconstitutional ordinances and questionable airport expansion projects, grassroots organizations like OAW are often characterized as small and insignificant.

What is the broader implication here? Should large corporate entities be allowed to violate the law and circumvent public process simply because they are bigger than everybody else? Regardless of size, OAW remains committed to preserving the environment, livability, and the rights of area residents to the enjoyment of their property. The Tribune erroneously asserted that OAW wants to close HIO. OAW is opposed to flight training in Washington County but has not taken a position on airport closure.

Though the primary focus, to date, has been on HIO, OAW engages in outreach activities with other communities adversely impacted by aviation activity including but not limited to Salem, Scappoose, Aurora and the Banks/Buxton area.

After more than 46 years of being owned and operated by the Port of Portland, HIO still remains reliant on lavish multimillion dollar cash infusions from the State of Oregon and the federal government, hardly the measure of a self-sustaining business model. In recent years, it has logged as many, if not more, annual operations than PDX, the largest airport in the state.

The vast majority of take-offs and landings at HIO are training flights generated in large part by Hillsboro Aviation's flight training school, a for-profit company owned by Max Lyons.

Hillsboro Aviation makes money by inviting student pilots from around the globe to train over homes and neighborhoods throughout the region.

According to the Hillsboro Tribune, Lyons contends that "most foreign pilots train in the U.S." He further voiced his intent to take advantage of anticipated aviation growth in Asia in coming years.

The Port and FAA play a crucial part in this arrangement by assuming the role of fundraising handmaidens intent on forcing the public to subsidize multimillion dollar infrastructure projects such as new runways and taxiways, and other expansion efforts as well as air traffic control towers and tower staff salaries.

How do flight training operations that originate and depart from the same airport rise to the level of what the Westside Business Alliance referred to as a "critical transportation link and economic development tool?"

Careful scrutiny reveals that this so-called "valuable asset" can be more aptly described as a "bottomless money pit."

The article mentions a Port study that speaks in vague generalities about HIO's economic impact - a study that neglected to include the hidden costs. HIO ranks 21st in the nation out of nearly 20,000 U.S. airports in lead emissions. Student pilots and other airport users are major contributors to the more than 0.70 tons of lead released into the air by HIO each year.

Even at very low blood levels, lead is linked with ADHD, cognitive impairment, behavior problems, aggression, decreased IQ, criminality and a host of medical problems. Other aviation generated toxins and incessant noise also pose health risks.

A comprehensive third party analysis, free of the Port's pro-aviation bias, will be required to address the actual impacts of this facility, one that recognizes that public subsidies for noisy, polluting private airport businesses detract from investment in schools, health care, social services, high speed rail, and other crucial public services that serve to better the community rather than poison the environment and erode livability.

© Oregon Aviation Watch Contact Us Jump to Top