Trimming Down Castle's Runway Is Just Plain Stupid
September 8, 2016
all the ideas we have ever heard, reducing the length of
Castle Airport’s runway to allow for more industrial
development space is the stupidest.
Castle Airport’s lack of development is not due to
the length of its airstrip. Actually, the length of the
airstrip (11,800 feet) could be the one most important asset
to drive the future economy of the airport.
A new county government plan calls for cutting it back to
10,000 feet, as reported in the Times last week.
Right now, the airport should be the base for giant bombers
carrying fire retardant which would inundate the forest
fires before they get too big to manage. It also should
provide more flights of full size jets bringing passengers
to see one of the greatest wonders of the world, Yosemite
Castle Airport’s problem, since the base was closed
in 1995, has been failed management. It had terrible management
under the JPA of Atwater, Merced City and Merced County
— and management in recent years has only improved
a little because there isn’t as much bickering going
The airport property has been a testimony of one failure
after another. The telecommunications Call Center which
was supposed to provide 1,500 jobs was the biggest failure,
giving free rent to a multinational corporation without
locking in the longterm jobs.
At the same time, business after business literally made
a joke out of renting from the JPA and the county. The rates
paid for the utilities were a joke, and then the demands
from Castle Airport Development, trying to force renters
to put up for their own utilities, were a joke.
Bad faith deals were rampant, and buildings which could
have been used were left vacant.
When the base closed, the military dorms left behind were
reduced to something apparently not suitable for people
sleeping on the street.
We know these things on a personal level because when our
newspaper plant burned to the ground in a fire, we tried
to rent, lease or buy a building at Castle. We were told
nothing would meet our needs. We were thinking many of the
buildings would have met our needs. We were not looking
for the Taj Mahal. We just needed a press room.
One of the worst decisions made by the county was to force
the Challenger Learning Center to close. This was one of
the bright stars of Merced County, attracting hundreds of
people to our area, especially school children learning
Shame, shame, shame on the county supervisors who allowed
this to happen.
The Challenger Center had set up federal funds which would
have allowed it to continue without county financing, but
the county sicked attorneys upon those volunteers of the
Challenger Center like they were some kind of criminals.
Yes, there has been some progress. But it is far slower
than need be.
The announcement that the county is doing something new
by hiring a development firm is bunk. It has done it before
What is lacking is financial backing, and nothing in the
plan shows us how the county would intend to raise the money
necessary to put in new infrastructure at Castle Airport.
Nothing shows us how the county is going to raise the kind
of money for finishing the Atwater-Merced Expressway to
Even the money which was available for such things as flightline
lighting was poorly planned, and today, some light standards
along the flightline are without any lights because the
previous ones would blind the pilots when they were trying
Using the Expressway as an excuse for Castle not developing
is just that — an excuse.
“If you build it, they will come” seems like
just another promise that's running on empty.
If you want to really know why Castle is a failure, just
ask some of the business people who are out there.
It might seem from this editorial that we are down on Castle
This would be wrong, we have the deepest respect for Castle
Airport and all the people who served in the Air Force at
While there are those who would sit down while our national
anthem is being played, those who served at Castle can stand
One day, we only wish that the airport would return Castle
to its former glory.