SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The FAA is stepping in to try and block the possible future closure of a small Santa Clara County airport.
The Reid-Hillview Airport in East San Jose has become the focus of a fight between the federal agency and county leaders.
The FAA recently sent a letter to the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors saying it “strongly opposes” any future plan to close the airport.
“Reid Hillview is an important asset. It’s part of an integrated airport system in the Bay Area,” FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said during a phone interview Friday.
The FAA said the airport had 168,000 takeoffs and landings last year, easing some congestion at the international airports. It is regularly used by private pilots and flight schools.
Last year, Santa Clara County supervisors voted to stop accepting federal grants for the airport.
That move could pave the way to close it by 2031 and clear space to possibly build low-income housing.
“We’re looking at possible replacement land uses, the environmental effect of the airport on the surrounding community,” said Santa Clara County Director of Roads and Airports Harry Freitas.
No matter what, agreements have been made to keep the airport open for another 11 years. Between now and then, the FAA says it is concerned about safety at Reid-Hillview due to rogue aircraft and issues with vehicles because signage isn’t up to par.
“That has led to a loss of situational awareness or confusion among most airline pilots who have gone where they shouldn’t go on the airfield, resulting in what we call runway incursion,” said Gregor.
Freitas said he was unaware of such issues at Reid-Hillview.
“We haven’t found anything that indicates we have a problem at a particular location,” said Freitas.
When asked if he felt the FAA was picking on the county, Freitas replied, “Not at all. The FAA is our partner, but they have an interest in airports and aviation in the United States and we have an interest in our community.”
The board of supervisors has written a response letter to the FAA and is now getting signatures. That letter will be in the mail next week.