Named after Gerald C. McClellan, a North County community leader and aviator, the McClellan-Palomar Airport serves as an entryway to and from North County San Diego. Local and international flights from across the globe touch down right here in Carlsbad’s own backyard. Conveniently located in the heart of Carlsbad’s business district, surrounded by beautiful beaches, local attractions, and more, the airport embodies a real sense of local pride. Read along as we speak with Olivier Brackett, Airport Manager at the McClellan-Palomar Airport, about the history behind the airport, information regarding its future plans for reconstruction, and interesting facts you might not know about this gateway to and from local destinations.
Q&A with Olivier Brackett
WHAT IS THE HISTORY BEHIND THE MCCLELLAN-PALOMAR AIRPORT?
McClellan-Palomar Airport (CRQ) started in Del Mar as a former Naval blimp base. When the I-5 was built, the federal government required that the county relocate the airport and the present site was selected – it was formerly used as the strawberry fields. McClellan-Palomar airport is one of eight airports operated by the County of San Diego, which include Gillespie Field and Ramona Airport – a Calfire base. It was opened on March 20, 1959.
PLEASE PROVIDE US WITH SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON YOUR STAFF.
McClellan-Palomar Airport has seven on-site staff dedicated full-time to its operation. The county has additional staff at the Gillespie Field airports headquarters who support all eight county airports in areas such as real estate, maintenance, regulatory compliance, and other matters.
I am the airport manager. I served twenty years with the United States Marine Corps. My duties included air traffic control, tower manager, and FAA examiner for MCAS Camp Pendleton. Before assuming my current position, I served as a volunteer, the first security and safety coordinator for all eight county airports, and noise officer and assistant manager at CRQ. I have a BS in Professional Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. I have worked for the county for thirteen years.
John Otto is the assistant airport manager. He served twenty years in the United States Navy in an aviation-related field. Before assuming his current position as assistant airport manager at McClellan-Palomar Airport, he also served as the noise officer and as assistant manager for Gillespie Field. John has a BS in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and a Master’s in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. John has been with the county for six and a half years.
HOW MANY PILOTS ARE CURRENTLY WORKING AT THE AIRPORT?
There are hundreds of pilots who use McClellan-Palomar Airport as a starting point or final destination for their flights locally, across the country, and around the globe.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND THE NAME OF THE AIRPORT?
On May 1, 1982, the County Board of Supervisors proclaimed the airport McClellan-Palomar Airport in honor of Gerald C. McClellan, who was instrumental in the incorporation of the City of Carlsbad and served on the city’s airport advisory committee and personnel commission. He was the past president and secretary of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. He was also active in educational affairs and served on the board of directors of Mira Costa College, held a PTA life membership, and served on various school committees. Mr. McClellan also sponsored a language scholarship trophy at Carlsbad High School. He was active in his church, where he served as president of the church corporation and also taught Sunday school. Additionally, as a youth leader, Mr. McClellan sat on the Carlsbad Boy’s Club advisory committee and awarded club members with rides in his personal airplane. He also served as a San Luis Rey District Boy Scouts chairman, scout master, and committee member.
THE AIRPORT IS IN THE MIDST OF VARIOUS RENOVATIONS. CAN YOU PROVIDE US WITH DETAILS ABOUT THIS MASTER PLAN? WHEN WILL IT BE COMPLETED AND WHAT WILL BE SOME OF THE NEW ADDITIONS AND FEATURES?
The Master Plan is intended to develop a framework for the future of McClellan-Palomar Airport within the context of local, regional, and national aviation system environments. The new twenty-year Master Plan (2015-2035) will identify and assess a range of development alternatives for meeting the airport’s forecast, facility, safety, and operational requirements in the next planning period. The Master Plan is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
WHAT TYPES OF SAFETY PRECAUTIONS ARE REQUIRED AT THE AIRPORT?
Like other commercial airports there are many safety and security precautions at McClellan-Palomar Airport and staff are continuously briefed on proper safety and security precautions. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staffs the terminal and provides security. Certain areas of the airport are designated off-limits to pedestrians and vehicles. The airport has on-site aircraft rescue and firefighting services to respond quickly to an emergency. In addition, we conduct regular emergency response and disaster drills with local first responders.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE LAYOUT OF THE AIRPORT? WHAT TYPES OF BUILDINGS/FACILITIES ARE ON-SITE?
The airport has a single runway, hangars, aircraft maintenance and fueling facilities, office space, terminal buildings, a restaurant, and easily accessible, inexpensive parking. Most of the facilities are on the south side of the airport.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY AT THE AIRPORT LIKE FOR YOU?
Upon arrival I receive a daily airport status brief from staff. During the day I manage the operation of the airport and supervise the activities of airport staff. I also conduct regular meetings with staff, airport stakeholders such as elected officials and the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee, and other outside agencies.
CAN YOU ELABORATE MORE ABOUT THE AREAS THE AIRPORT SERVICES? WHAT TYPES OF FLIGHTS TAKE OFF AND LAND AT THE MCCLELLAN-PALOMAR AIRPORT?
The airport and the many businesses at the airport offer a variety of services ranging from flight training, aircraft charter and rental, aircraft maintenance and fueling, and a great restaurant. Additionally, many pilots participate in the Angel Flight program in which pilots volunteer their time, aircraft, and fuel to fly people to medical appointments to which they may not be able to afford the travel.
WHICH AIRLINES SCHEDULE FLIGHTS AT THIS AIRPORT?
United Express currently serves our market with seven round trips a day to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
HAVE YOU HELD ANY EVENTS AT THE AIRPORT?
The ariport celebrated its 50th anniversary on July 29, 2009. Also, The Collings Foundation flies WWII-era aircraft into the airport on an annual basis that typically include a B-24 Liberator – thousands of which were produced here in San Diego – a B-25 Mitchell bomber, and a P-51 Mustang long-range fighter credited with helping win WWII in the European Theatre by escorting long-range bombers to their targets and back to base. This event draws hundreds of visitors including scores of WWII veterans who are able to sit in and even fly in the same type of aircraft they operated during bombing missions over Europe some seven decades ago. Additionally, we routinely provide tours for schools and people of all ages.
HAVE ANY NOTABLE FIGURES OR CELEBRITIES VISITED THE AIRPORT?
Can you keep a secret? I can too. There are a number of people who enjoy the anonymity of traveling by private aircraft.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE AIRPORT?
The future of the airport is exciting and the Master Plan will provide the direction.
WHAT’S THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT ABOUT WORKING AT THE AIRPORT?
The ability to serve the public in a dynamic environment and working every day with a great staff.
HOW DOES THE AIRPORT STAY CONNECTED TO ITS NEIGHBORS IN CARLSBAD?
The airport stays connected to the community by its regularly scheduled public meetings – eight per year – dedicated to the master plan process, public presentations, and airport tours open the public.
IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE THE AIRPORT IN FIVE WORDS OR LESS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Best kept secret in North County!
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
Using CRQ allows North County travelers to lower their carbon footprint when traveling by eliminating multiple vehicles on the road. Using McClellan-Palomar Airport as starting or ending points greatly reduces the “hassle factor” because while CRQ has all of the same security requirements of any other commercial airport, it is on a smaller scale and therefore much quicker. Also, inexpensive parking is near the new terminal, which is built in a sea-sky motif with shell-encrusted floors in sweeping conch shell patterns, overhead canopies that mimic sailboats, and floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of light and sea breezes. There are several outdoor areas, and even rocking chairs to allow our passengers and visitors the chance to relax.
The airport also has a customs office for travelers arriving from outside the U.S.
McClellan-Palomar Airport generates tens of millions of dollars in personal income earned by the nearly 400 people employed at the airport, in business revenue generated by airport industries, and state and local tax revenues.
McClellan-Palomar Airport with its extensive facilities, new terminal, great restaurant, and convenience is something the entire community can be proud of.