Board Approves New McClellan Palomar Airport Master Plan

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a new 20-year master plan for McClellan-Palomar Airport Wednesday that will enhance airport safety and make it possible for aircraft already flying in and out of it to fly farther.

The new master plan will not expand the airport but will make several improvements within McClellan-Palomar’s existing boundaries. The improvements will include shifting the runway and taxiway slightly north, ultimately extending the runway by 800 feet, and adding an “arresting system” to both ends of the runway that can safely slow airplanes in emergencies.

The County’s Board voted 4-0 to approve the new master plan. Board Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar recused herself.

County staff said shifting McClellan-Palomar’s runway to the north would give the larger jets and airplanes that are already landing and taking off from the airport more room to taxi safely. Extending the runway, they said, would allow those aircraft to fly farther — deeper into Europe and even to China — without refueling, by giving them the space to take off carrying more fuel than they can now.

At the same time, staff members said, the longer runway would reduce aircraft noise for communities to the west by letting aircraft take off and climb higher, faster, out of earshot of communities below. Noise would not increase in the eastern landing zones.

County staff members said the master plan improvements were estimated to cost roughly $132 million, $89 million of which would be paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration.

McClellan-Palomar is one of eight airports operated by the County of San Diego’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and the only one that offers commercial flights for county residents.

There are currently just over 300 airplanes based at McClellan-Palomar Airport, most of which are privately owned by North County residents. The airport is also currently headquarters for one commercial air carrier, California Pacific Airlines, which expects to begin flying passengers early next month to and from San Jose, Reno, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The airport has already seen a shift in recent years from smaller aircraft, such as personally owned propeller aircraft, to larger corporate jets and commercial flights.

The County has made several improvements at McClellan-Palomar in recent years, including a $24 million renovation in 2009 that added a modernized, 18,000-square-foot terminal, parking and a restaurant, “The Landings.”

Like all other commercial airports, passengers at McClellan-Palomar must check in for flights and be screened by federal Transportation Security Administration agents. However, because McClellan-Palomar is a smaller airport, passengers can escape the traffic, expensive parking and long security lines at other major airports.

The County started working to create a new master plan for McClellan Palomar in 2014, working with the public, businesses, local cities and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The master plan process identified and assessed strategies to determine the airport’s future aviation, safety, facility and operational needs, and developed alternatives to meet those needs through the year 2036.

For more information about McClellan Palomar Airport, go to DPW’s McClellan Palomar Airports webpage.


Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact