Neighbors challenge pilot schools at Gillespie Field

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EL CAJON, Calif. -- Neighbors are threatening to file a lawsuit against Gillespie Field due to increased air traffic.

There are currently seven flight schools that operate out of the county airport and there are currently no enforceable restrictions, according to Debra Hurst, an attorney working with residents living near the airport located at 1960 Joe Crosson Dr in El Cajon. The pending lawsuit alleges the county over-burdened the homes near Gillespie Field after opening several pilot schools.

“They have the most flight schools in the county and it’s become an international flight school hub,” said Sue Strom, a neighbor who lives near the airport.

Residents are demanding restrictions on flight times and financial compensation for their pain and suffering.

"Periodically, they would fly over and it was no big deal.  Then, all of sudden, we saw an increase in traffic and heard more noise," Christopher Dean.

"The airplanes come so low you feel like you could take a tennis ball and racket and hit away and almost hit the planes out of the sky," said Brian Markworth, neighbor.

Pilots told FOX5 they are courteous.

“I was always taught to take off at a steep incline to minimize noise to the neighbors and I do…but this airport has been here forever so it’s kinda to be expected,” said pilot Mike Reeves.

County officials declined to speak about pending litigation.

The lawsuit could be filed as soon as June 30.

25 comments

  • Kimberly

    Really pain and suffering? ! ? You knew the airport was there when you moved in. I live in the landing flight path. The planes go directly over my house. I don’t even notice most of the time. Get over yourselves. Pain and suffering OMG…

    • Eric

      I agree, I’m in th landing path for Lindbergh Field. How people move into an area surrounding an Airport and then begin to start complaining about the noise baffles me… Perhaps they should have looked elsewhere.

    • Joe

      Landing path? Do you not understand that when you land these small planes, you pretty much cut all power and almost glide onto the runway…. Imagine the opposite side, where I live, the planes are full throttle at 10pm and even worse midnight…. Come spend a day over here and tell me to “get over it”

  • Mike

    Article is filled with inaccuracies and omissions. Massive numbers of restrictions on pilots and flight schools already exist. You have heard of the FAA? Sue Stromm is identified as a “neighbor” and not the leader and primary instigator of the local anti-airport crowd living in her rich, exclusive, Fletcher hills hill-top community. Lots more noise comes from the nearby Freeway… litigation for the state for CA125 for the noise next? Why don’t you get some reasoned arguments, some balance from the other side? Did you even attend last weekends air show? Have you seen the amount of money the airport brings in for the county and local economy? Have you spoken to any of the flight schools that break their backs to be good neighbors? A simple check online from the FAA and the airport shows average Airport operations are waaaaay down, most likely because of the economy… Really this is a tempest in a teapot, with almost no support from the members of the community…

    • Teri Tricjey

      Do you really think that air show is something to be proud of? Loud gunshot sounds erupting from planes as loud as the fake fighting?

      • A

        The 10 minutes on two days that there was noise were less than the noise daily from 125 and 52. No Mike, she and their group not care about silly things like facts (operations are down, aviation is safer than ground vehicles, etc.) or trying to communicate with others openly. Their meetings are accessed by approval only. Please do not associate everyone in this area with her and Sue. We are not ultra-exclusive and the vast majority of people in the area want to work together for the benefit of the community – not just a few.

    • Al Pedrin

      You obviously don’t live in the area. Since our move-in 8 years ago, the increase in the flight takeoffs and landings has increased tremendously. They fly only a few hundred feed above the residents in many older planes, many decades old, with perpetually-rebuilt piston engines that still use Leaded gas. Such exhaust drizzles constantly over homes and schools. Additionally, now Gillespie wants to bring in an “aeronautical thrill school” with stunt planes. Imagine the racket and danger those will present. It has deteriorated the quality of life and affected property values.

      • A

        We have lived here since 1997 right under the pattern with a 180+ view of the airport and valley. You filter attendance at your meetings, refusing to talk to neighbors who won’t drink your kook-aid. Anyone can obtain FAA operations facts here: ttp://aspm.faa.gov/opsnet/sys/Main.asp The highest operations in the last 10 years were in 2007 – when you moved in. Since then there has been a progressive decrease, except for those pesky Civil operators who are bothering you by fighting fires, airlifting accident victims, etc. If you actually live in the Fletcher Hills or Santee area you might want to check with Dan McAllister’s office and verify real estate sales because this area has had property values increasing faster than other areas of East County. As for the “drizzling of lead”, lead levels are strictly monitored by the EPA and this year were found to be within or lower than standards and lower than the airport in Carlsbad. http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/airport-lead/sanding-lead-factsheet.pdf We did our homework before we moved in. We have kept up to date on facts. ASAP uses scare tactics, partial and false information and Sue’s contacts in the Media to manipulate the situation and drive wedges in to a once close community.

      • A

        Yes, many lies and distortions by ASAP and the people quoted in this news segment. We are vehemently against the lies, drama, misrepresentations, racist comments, impersonation of a Naval Officer (husband is a USNA grad), hypocrisy, damage to personal property and refusal of ASAP people to review facts and work together for a positive solution. We have owned multiple homes in Fletcher Hills, Penasquitos and Scripps Ranch over 27 years and have always had to sign forms at escrow acknowledging the risk and noise of nearby airports. If your form was missed, your real estate and escrow agents owe an explanation to the state and your lawyer. Area property values have consistently increased (another verifiable fact you deny) and we don’t want ASAP affecting them with a frivolous lawsuit.

        Channel 5, how about due diligence? Come to our house, sit inside and document the lack of noise. Please talk to people not at the airport and not on ASAP!

  • Frank

    I’m a pilot and fly and rent my planes from a flight school at Gillespie field, I got my private pilot license at this school, I also hold a real estate license.
    Disclosures were given to all the homeowners about this and many other airports around the area before close of escrow on their homes, they all signed that they we’re aware of the noise and proximity of this and other airports that would impact their lives if they purchased a home by an airport.
    Rather than threaten to sue flight schools maybe one should see if your real estate agent had you aware and signed the proper disclosures for your home, buyer beware.
    Don’t move to the beach If you don’t like sand and waves.

  • Teri Tricjey

    Not only has the County of San Diego via Dianne Jacob allowed all these flight schools, they have encouraged the development of Aerotropolis: encourage massive development of “like-minded” businesses around the airport. This has led to a new flight company aimed at thrill seekers who will allow customers to fly these planes in aerial “fights” and acrobatics! And the county officials claim they can’t discriminate over who leases at that airport! Really? They can’t make sure safe companies are flying over the East County?

  • Tom

    So,when did they figure that the house they wanted to live in is near the airport?
    Pain and suffering ….. LMAO

  • robert

    For all of those individuals who do not live in this area, nor have experienced first hand the issue we are dealing with, please take a moment and try to be objective.
    This issue is a relatively recent occurrence.
    In the last few years the continued development, expansion and increase in 24/7 flight activity has come to significantly impacted many of the neighborhoods beneath the Gillespie flight patterns. I have been a resident in Santee under the 27L flight path for several decades and up until ~5 years ago I have been more than tolerant of the airfield operations. Recently, it has gotten to a point that it is routine for aircraft to traverse the airspace above my home every 5-10 minutes from before sunrise until well after 10 PM. Now, just as with Lindbergh Field and the compromises reached with the Banker’s Hill and Point Loma communities, the time has come where the needs of all of the stakeholders have to be addressed. Thus far, the those entities representing the economic interests of Gillespie Field have had no concern for their neighbors flown over beneath them. Unfortunately, it seems that the only way to prompt action is via litigation.

    • Jay

      I live by a hospital and can frequently hear helicopters flying in trauma patients and sirens at odd hours rushing people there for life-saving efforts… perhaps I can challenge this with litigation as well. Thanks for the idea!

  • A

    This group does NOT represent the majority in the Fletcher Hills neighborhood. Sue and Teri have misrepresented facts and changed their attack for years. At one point they had a “Retired Top Gun Aviatior Expert” speaking for them who turned out to have briefly served in a US Navy support position on a ship (not an aircraft carrier or squadron much less flying a plane). They have made racist comments about pilots and students, vandalized yards of non-supporters, created a software to auto-call in complaints, claimed pilots were dumping fuel while making inverted landings, refuse to accept repeated noise and evniromental surveys and refused to talk openly about concerns (to neighbors, the airport, city/govt representatives) with anyone who does not agree with their position. They use Ms. Strom’s business contacts to manipulate the media with one-sided articles and unfortunately reporters don’t take the time to check facts or talk to other people in the neighborhoods. FYI – Mr. Markworh moved here in 2011 and is selling his house – for a $115k+ profit. Fletcher Hills is thriving and has been lucky to have stable and increasing property values.

    • Al Pedrin

      Many, many lies and distortions, “A.” There were no disclosures pertaining to airport proximity upon purchase and, I suspect, you are a shill for the airport and/or a flight school. You are a little too “vehement.”

      • David

        Here is the link to the county website showing the operations per year. Down nearly 43,000 per year since 2008. http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/dpw/airports/airportsmain/operations.html I recently purchased a home about 10 miles from Gillespie and was given discloures showing the area flight operations, for Gillespie, Montgomery, and Lindbergh (we live in the appproach paths for the three airports), The airport has been in operation (under county control) for nearly 70 years. As a interest of fairness, I am a member of a local flying club and routinely fly from both Gillespie and Montgomery Fields.

      • A

        Yes, many lies and distortions by ASAP and the people quoted in this news segment. We are vehemently against the lies, drama, misrepresentations, racist comments, impersonation of a Naval Officer (husband is a USNA grad), hypocrisy, damage to personal property and refusal of ASAP people to review facts and work together for a positive solution. We have owned multiple homes in Fletcher Hills, Penasquitos and Scripps Ranch over 27 years and have always had to sign forms at escrow acknowledging the risk and noise of nearby airports. If your form was missed, your real estate and escrow agents owe an explanation to the state and your lawyer. Area property values have consistently increased (another verifiable fact you deny) and we don’t want ASAP affecting them with a frivolous lawsuit.

        Channel 5, how about due diligence? Come to our house, sit inside and document the lack of noise. Please talk to people not at the airport and not on ASAP!

    • Adrienne

      Hi A,
      I think it’s fair to say my husband’s comments were taken somewhat out of context. As is often the case with media, a juicy soundbite is too good to pass up. Neither my husband nor myself are in any way involved in the ASAP litigation, nor do we take a formal position on this matter. It’s true that due to our children moving school districts we think it makes sense for our family to move. Otherwise, we love our neighborhood and feel fortunate to own a beautiful home. Obviously we knew about the airport. There are a lot of small planes and I think everyone can agree they appear very close at times. At this point, our house has NOT sold and any profit you have calculated is missing money we have put into the house (like an expensive solar system which accounts for 100% of our energy costs.)
      Someone wrote us an anonymous letter today that sounds a lot like your post. I’m reaching out to let you know that if you are still bothered by my husband’s comments, you are welcome to stop by any time and speak to us directly. We are trying to teach our children about living in a community where people are not afraid to express disagreements with cordiality. They were upset and confused by the name-calling, tone and anonymous nature of the letter.
      Adrienne

  • SAM

    The planes go directly over my house, and if the windows open you can’t hear the TV when the go over, and they make sputtering noise and it sounds like the engine is stalling. Now that I know they are students it makes me feel alot better,. I thought it mostly cartel and rich old men using the airport, thanks for info.

  • Jay

    1. I highly doubt you could “hit the planes out of the sky” with a tennis ball.
    2. Financial compensation for “pain and suffering”??!??!! Go talk to the victims of the Boston marathon bombing and ask them about “pain and suffering.” Quit trying to cash in you greedy, worthless people.

  • John

    Are the planes loud? Sometimes. Do the people living on the hill mind? A few. Do the planes drop fuel or lead? No evidence of this to my knowledge… I’ve lived here longer than almost anybody else on Hacienda in Fletcher Hills.. I was one of the first to buy a new home in 1980… I attended some of the meetings Sue and Betty set up…( lawyers wanted $2500 from each person to even talk about a law suit!! I can nearly replace all the windows in my house for that!). My quality of life has done nothing but increase since I retired after 40 years in private practice;.. My homes property value has increased enormously as well. I have lots of hobbies that keep me outdoors, gardening, walking, pitching golf balls in my backyard. The airport and it’s aircraft don’t bother me or the majority of my neighbors a wit, It’s my understanding that this ‘story’ is all ginned up because the lawsuit people and their attorneys have a deadline to file by June 30th. Most reasonable folks think this is an attempt to take a fat retainer and move to the next cash cow… How much do the attorneys stand to make from this? Much ado about nothing. If you don’t like the noise, fix your windows, but, you shouldn’t expect your neighbors, or the little guys to foot the bill for your alleged grievance. Don’t we have more important issues to concern us right now?

  • Robert Germann

    I don’t know why the pilotsf/light schools are upset and angry over people who are involved in their communities Gillespie neighbors are trying to solve a problem in the courts. The courts would look at both sides, twelve jurors/judge would decide if the citizens of ElCajon that live in a five mile radius of a General Aviation Airport( Gillespie) have merit. The citizens would then be compensated or they don’t. Its the American way but then if are not from America you probably wouldn’t understand that, if you come from a communist county or ruled by a dictatorship then this is all new to you. Maybe this is a great political science lesson in democracy.

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