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Unbiased analysis of Hillsboro airport needed

I’d like to addresses some concerns related to the Hillsboro Tribune’s Jan. 25 article about the Hillsboro Airport and Oregon Aviation Watch (“Airport Fight May Have a Rough Landing”).

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 the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals to be unconstitutional — a ruling subsequently upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

In addition, a U.S. 9th 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 Hillsboro Tribune referred to OAW as “tiny” and “miniscule.” To municipal corporations like the Port of Portland and the City of Hillsboro, which 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 the Hillsboro airport. 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 Hillsboro, OAW engages in outreach activities with other communities adversely impacted by aviation activity including 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 the Federal Aviation Administratin 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.

Miki Barnes is president of Oregon Aviation Watch. Learn more about the group at oregonaviationwatch.org.



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