Healdsburg flight school sputters at hearing

  • One of the few planes taking off from the Healdsburg Municipal Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

    (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Neighbors of the Healdsburg Municipal Airport knew they wouldn't be able to count on quiet all the time living in the vicinity of a small aviation facility.

But some say they got more than they bargained for: pilots don't always stick to the flight path, they fly too low, and noise from a hovering helicopter practicing take-offs and landings rattles nearby country homes and estates.

"I was in my hot tub last night at 7 o'clock when a plane buzzed my head," said Julie Gilles, a Chablis Road resident, who said she could see the pilot's head.

Hers was among the complaints aired Wednesday night when the Healdsburg Transportation Commission on a 4-3vote rejected an application for a flight school at the airport located off Lytton Springs Road.

The vote was only advisory and the City Council is expected to make the ultimate determination, probably at its Aug.19 meeting.

"I think it's a small country airport and it's really meant for hobbyists. I think it's inappropriate to have businesses of that scale here," said Sylvia Hurst, a winery owner who lives on Chiquita Road, about a mile away from the airport.

"We continue to have planes fly off the flight path on a regular basis, which strongly affects our peaceful country life," she said of the low-flying aircraft directly over the home she and her husband Phil have shared for 19 years.

She asserted that adding a flight school will only make things worse, although some pilots who spoke Wednesday disagreed.

"Rob will train people to fly away from people's homes," said pilot Paul LeBrett, in reference to Robert Markwood's flight school application.

LeBrett and other pilots said the airport, built in 1939 as a private landing strip before it was taken over by the city, has had flight schools that have come and gone through the years.

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