Stockton airport intends to repave a runway

June 20, 2007

Jun. 19--STOCKTON -- A Stockton Metropolitan Airport runway that federal investigators say factored into a small-plane rollover earlier this year will receive a nearly $2 million makeover under a proposal going before San Joaquin County policymakers today.

Runway 29-L, a 4,400-foot strip that runs parallel to the airport's longer main runway, was identified by airport officials as a repair priority more than a year ago because of the asphalt's aging, uneven surface. Two grooved depressions, each about 4 inches wide and an inch deep, run along the runway's length.

A World War II veteran in his 80s who rolled a stunt plane during an aborted takeoff in January told investigators the aircraft flipped after one of its wheels hit a hole or a rut. The National Transportation Safety Board recently ruled that the accident was pilot Herb Ross' fault, but the board cited the uneven surface as a contributing factor.

Airport Director Barry Rondinella said the runway is inspected daily and passed an annual Federal Aviation Administration inspection in November. The rehabilitation, which will include regrading some portions of the runway and rebuilding its surface, was planned well before the crash and subsequent reports.

"It's a safe runway," Rondinella said. "It's just getting to be time."

The county Board of Supervisors is to review plans for the rehabilitation project today. If approved, the project will be shopped to bidders with the hope it will be completed by the fall, Rondinella said.

All but $98,000 of the $1.96 million project will come from the airport's budget, with the remainder paid through FAA grants.

Supervisor Leroy Ornellas, who closely follows airport issues, said the rehabilitation should have started several years ago, when the uneven surface was first noted by airport officials.

The grant money being used for the project was originally scheduled for use on a customs terminal that was planned for two years before Ornellas and Supervisors Larry Ruhstaller and Ken Vogel voted it down earlier this year.

"This is something we've needed for several years. We've been warned about this," Ornellas said.

Planes take off from and land on the airport's two runways more than 80,000 times each year, officials said. Yet few complaints have been made about the shorter runway's condition, Rondinella said.

Rick Tutt, a pilot based out of the airport who also chairs the county Airport Advisory Committee, said he had never heard of any problems on the runway until the investigation of Ross' crash earlier this year.

"I've taken off and landed on that runway thousands of times, and I've personally not noticed it," said Tutt, who owns R.J. Tutt Aviation.

Contact reporter Greg Kane at (209) 546-8276 or

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