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Fri, May 04, 2012

Oceano – The Little Airport that Could

Local Pilots Save CA Airport From Developers

By: Kristy Graham

Aero-News has talked many times about how General Aviation is under attack in this country and potentially in trouble on a long term scale. Some people are taking it upon themselves to try to prevent any more damage from being done.

Oceano Airport is a beautiful airstrip that sits within a stones throw of Pismo Beach. A recent flight out there led to a short walk to get lunch and then time spent on the beach watching the windsurfers and dune buggies. The walk could have been avoided by using one of the bikes that are available to “borrow” right on the airport grounds. Before leaving, an hour or so was spent with two people who turned out to be the reason we were able to enjoy the day.

In 2010, a local resident wanted to buy the airport, close it down and develop the property. Jolie Lucas and Mitch Latting, both pilots, started the Friends of Oceano Airport - a chapter of CalPilots - and helped prevent that from happening. Saying that it “takes everyone doing their part,” Mitch and Jolie, along with the help of 150 volunteers have continued to work to keep the Airport a viable part of the area, and to convince the county that selling the airport is not in the best interest of anyone. Jolie was even awarded the Crotti Award from the AOPA for the work they did to save the airport.

While the same developer would still like to get the property, Jolie states that they will continue to work to keep their airport a contributing member of their community. She states “If every pilot did one thing at their airport to benefit their community we wouldn’t have so many problems and we want Oceano to be the proving ground of that.”

But as we all know, actions speak louder than words. The group has worked hard on cleaning up the airport including fixing the airport sign, restriping the parking lot, planting flowers, re-instating the loaner bicycles and adding a refrigerator and microwave to the freshly painted office. In addition, for many years the bathrooms had no hot water, so the group worked with the county to get approval to install insta-heat water in them. That project is currently under way. Since they already have a large screen they are hoping to buy a projector to use that would also be available for other groups who come in that want to have their aviation related meetings there.

A larger goal is to either refurbish the existing Quonset hut to be used for meetings and dinners, or to potentially get a modular home that would be installed for that use, as well as for use of pilots who are coming through the area (along with the campsite that already exists).

In order to raise funds for these projects the organization sponsors 3 events a year. A movie night, a Toys for Tots event during the holidays and the upcoming Celebration Weekend that will be held May 11th and 12th.

This years Celebration Weekend is a tribute to our Veterans. On Friday they will be having a dinner and dance with a live band. Admission is $10. Saturday will be the fly-in day that will include a live band, pancake breakfast, static displays, a raffle and a silent auction. Admission is free. In addition, they will be collecting items to put in care packages to send to the troops overseas. All the information and a list of items they would like to collect can be found on their website.

The spunk and tenacity to start a group, organize it, get out and do the work and continue to make improvements is exactly what is necessary to save General Aviation and the small airports that make it possible. As Latting said “Once an airport is gone, you will never get it back”. We can’t afford to lose them and this is a group we could all learn from on how to prevent that from happening.

The Friends of Oceano Airport say that if you’re in the area, you're invited to stop in and say "Hi" during their Celebration Weekend.

FMI: www.friendsofoceanoairport.com

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