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Public, Private Airstrips Dot North County

January 17, 1988|TOM GORMAN

County-owned Palomar Airport (1)in Carlsbad is the largest and busiest public airport in North County, and the only facility in the area with a control tower.

Other airports--or, in one case, little more than a scraped strip of earth--owned by the County of San Diego in North County include:

- Fallbrook Community Air Park (4), on the eastern border of Camp Pendleton. About 75 aircraft are tied down there, operating from a 2,100-foot paved runway.

- Ramona Airport (8), with a 4,000-foot paved runway used by about 125 aircraft based there year-round. The airport also serves as a base station during the fire season for the California Department of Forestry's local fleet of aerial tankers.

- Borrego Valley Airport (11), in Borrego Springs, which has a 5,000-foot runway that is host to a scheduled commuter airline as well as local recreational pilots.

- Ocotillo Airport (13), the county's version of Edwards Air Force Base, with a dry lake bed serving as as a pair of 4,200-foot runways. "We drag it a couple of times a year to keep the mud from flaking up," said Rick Severson of the county Department of Airports. Pilots can land there to grab a bite to eat at a diner on the highway.

- Agua Caliente Springs Airstrip (15), a 2,500-foot paved strip popular for fliers who land there and walk across the street for therapy in hot mineral springs at Agua Caliente County Park on the desert floor southeast of Julian.

The only other public airstrip in North County is Oceanside Municipal Airport (2), home to 175 aircraft flying out of a 3,000-foot runway nestled between an industrial park and the San Luis Rey River, just east of downtown Oceanside.

In addition, there are several privately owned airstrips, which are considered out-of-bounds for public use, but are nonetheless available for emergency landings and show up on aviation charts.

They include:

- An unnamed, inaccessible-by-ground, 2,500-foot dirt airstrip (3)in the northern reaches of Twin Oaks Valley north of San Marcos. The strip has been there for years, reportedly developed to aid in the construction of a nearby water reservoir. It received notoriety when two North County men were killed Nov. 28 after their small, two-seater airplane crashed into a boulder at the end of the runway while trying to lift off from the strip.

- Blackinton Airstrip (5), privately owned by Clark Blackinton, off Old Castle Road north of Escondido. Blackinton scraped the 2,150-foot dirt airstrip in 1964, when he bought the property, and he now shares it with three or four neighbors, all aviation enthusiasts.

- Pauma Valley Airpark (6), owned and maintained by the Pauma Valley Country Club north of Valley Center. Its 2,700-foot paved runway typically is used by part-time residents who prefer to fly instead of driving to get-away homes.

"If someone lands here who is not a member or guest, we make it extremely difficult for them," said Byron Foreman, chairman of the country club's airport committee. Foreman said the country club reserves the right to confiscate any unauthorized aircraft that land there--a threat that has yet to be consummated.

- The short, 1,375-foot Lake Wohlford Resort Airstrip (7), home to about 32 locally owned airplanes and used by pilots flying to the resort from outside the area for a fried chicken or channel catfish dinner.

- Loma Madera Ranch Airstrip (9), privately owned and virtually inaccessible by ground, is a 2,300-foot runway halfway between Lake Henshaw and Sutherland Reservoir, nestled in hills northeast of Ramona. Area pilots say they are not sure whether the strip is actively used by anyone.

- Warner's Landing Field (10), a 3,500-foot runway owned by Warner Springs Ranch and used primarily by glider pilots and visitors flying into the time-share resort complex.

- Borrego Air Ranch Airport (12), just outside Borrego Springs, a 3,000-foot paved runway used exclusively by a dozen or so families whose homes run along both sides of the strip and whose garages are, in fact, hangars for their pleasure aircraft.

- The twin Cordell Airstrips (14), one just down the road from the other along County Road S-2 in Shelter Valley, southeast of Julian. Charles Cordell Sr., an El Cajon insurance broker, owns a 1,900-foot runway on his weekend getaway property, while his son, Charles Cordell Jr., a graphic artist, has a 2,500-foot runway on his property down the road.

Numbers in parenthses refer to map location.

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