One of the greatest challenges at an airport is creating open lines of communication between airport tenants and the airport sponsor.
In today’s busy society it can be difficult to get the parties in the same room for a discussion, much less on the same page.
One way to facilitate communication is to have conversations in cyberspace through the creation of a blog. At least that’s what David Aronson, an active member of the airport community at the Nut Tree Airport (VCB) in Vacaville, Calif., decided to do when he created Nut Tree Forum (NutTreeForum.NutTreeAirport.com).
“Communication is key to a vibrant airport,” he explains.
The airport, located on 270 acres within the city limits of Vacaville, is operated by Solano County.
“The perception is that there is no communication between the airport manager and county and the users and, in general, there is poor communication between the City of Vacaville and the county,” Aronson explained, noting that the feeling among pilots is that the airport was in decline until three years ago with the arrival of Andy Swanson as airport manager.
“More has happened in the past two years at the airport than happened in the previous 15 years,” he said. “He is trying to get a funding upgrade for new fencing and an airport security system and he is doing a great job.”
A recent post on the forum is a plea to pilots to contact their elected officials to expresses support for the airport and persuade them to expedite the updating of the airport’s Master Plan. Without the Master Plan, there can be no development, such as hangar construction, according to Aronson. Without a plan, it also is unlikely that the airport can get funding from the FAA to pay for improvements.
A lot of things are in limbo for lack of a plan, said Aronson.
“Airport management acquired 18 acres along the airport for future growth many years ago,” he said. “It was earmarked for development in the Master Plan from 20 years ago, but it never got done.”
County officials are listening, noted Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan.
“The board has made the Nut Tree Airport its top legislative priority and is interested in optimizing the airport’s potential by improving the airport consistent with the Master Plan and the Airport Capital Improvement Plan,” he stated. “The Nut Tree Airport, the County Department of General Services, and our Board of Supervisors are committed to improving service to all airport users, including business and recreational flyers.”
The Nut Tree is located along an Interstate that connects Lake Tahoe with San Francisco. It was farmland, once owned by Edwin and Helen Power, who in 1921 started the Nut Tree as a roadside fruit stand beneath a walnut tree, which gave the site its name. This proved popular with travelers and a restaurant soon followed, then a toy shop, and a miniature railroad that took visitors for a ride on a quarter-mile track through the Nut Tree orchards and gardens.
The airport opened in 1955, first as a dirt strip then as a paved facility.
The old Nut Tree amusement park was closed in 1996 and later sold to the City of Vacaville. In 2005 that property was targeted for redevelopment as a modern amusement center, which includes the return of the Nut Tree train and the creation of more shopping venues, restaurants, town houses and hotels.
There is a lot of potential at the airport, Swanson agreed, but the lack of communication — and the rumor mill in particular — can thwart that potential.
“I really give Mr. Aronson credit for what he has done and what he is trying to do,” he said. “This airport has been plagued with rumors, from the airport is going to be closed down to insignificant things that grow into a story on their own. His website is an attempt to harness the energy in a positive manner rather than a negative manner. He is trying to answer the rumors instead of continuing them and undermining the field.”
In a section of the blog titled “Rumors and why I won’t comment on them,” Aronson states, “Rumor slinging is a natural part of being in aviation. I would like to list the current rumors for you. I am convinced that, by the time I did, the rumor would have already changed, like a mutating virus. I invite you to share the latest rumor that you have heard about the Nut Tree Airport.” Aronson answers each posting and cites his source.
He is skeptical, however, that city or county officials will post comments on the site.
“They have everything to lose by putting something on paper,” he explained. “Their comments are so structured and in reaction to what is said about them. But hopefully they will see what the sentiment is and the frustration at the airport, along with the needs and desires of the tenants. Hopefully this will promote a change in what they do.”
The county also has an online location for airport information, Reagan noted, at SolanoCounty.com on the Department of General Services Web page.
The county also has big plans for the airport — and they don’t include closing the airport, he said.
“Based on recent trends, we would expect increased business use to continue and the infrastructure to grow accordingly to accommodate it,” Reagan said. “This improved infrastructure will benefit all airport users, including recreational flyers.
This 10-year and long-range planning will be developed through the Master Planning process later this year and will involve all airport stakeholders.”
The first projects to be tackled include an apron reconstruction, as well as airport road reconstruction. The addition of more access gates, the introduction of sidewalks, and a new sign also are in the works.