Airport Expansion Won't Bring Brown Pollution Cloud To Payson


by Ken Young, Pine

In response to Carl and Judy Fox's concern expressed over possible expansion of the Payson Airport, I agree in wishing to keep growth minimal and beneficial to the local quality of life. However I think growth issues are best considered from a standpoint of logic and common sense, both of which are commonly lacking in the public's regard to local airports. Here's my logic:

Yes, the brown cloud looks thickest in the area of Sky Harbor Airport, which happens to be in the center of the Phoenix area, exactly where you would expect the cloud to be thickest with or without an airport. Yes, the jets leave a visible trail but how much does this account for the brown cloud? I don't know, but the expert studies quoted in the media all agree that the high density of road vehicles accounts for pretty much all of the cloud. I know that Scottsdale Airport has a heavy volume of business jet traffic but does not have its own local brown cloud. Luke Air Force Base also has a heavy volume of fighter jet traffic but does not have a local brown cloud.

The advent of jet traffic at Payson Airport is already history business jets occasionally come and go here already, although not frequently. It is unreasonable to expect that Payson will ever draw the traffic volume of Sky Harbor, or even of Scottsdale unless the entire Rim country area becomes wall-to-wall vacation lodges and hopefully water restrictions will prevent that from ever happening.

Will Payson develop a brown cloud? Considering that it's also in a valley, it sometimes has temperature inversions and calm days, development is rapidly replacing natural foliage with pavement, everybody is becoming aware of a large increase in road traffic in town, and the city fathers are pushing to promote Payson as a desirable destination for Valley people yes, Payson will soon have its own brown cloud all summer.

But common sense says it will not be caused by those "few people with planes," no matter how much the airport expands. It takes many thousands of cars and trucks each day to make a brown cloud. How much of that will be due to a few dozen small planes and maybe one or two small jets per day, spending less than a minute below the inversion layer on each takeoff and landing? Remember, the rest of the flight path is above any inversion layer and so contributes nothing to ground-level pollution. If we want clean air we should have been fighting the Beeline improvements, the Super Wal-Mart, and the popularization of Payson as a weekend destination for Valley residents who have already fouled their environment.

By the way, I would like to ask the Payson town airport manager why the recent excellent Progress issue of the Roundup contained not a single word about the benefits of the Payson Airport to the community, or even that Payson has an airport. There was also no mention of the upcoming Payson Airfair on May 12, which should be publicized to improve relations with the community.

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