Back-Seat Driver

When high winds hit, it’s the pilot’s call

When wind gusts at Sacramento International Airport hit 40 mph earlier this week, they slowed air traffic, but they did not ground flights.

Airport officials reported a higher-than-usual volume of delayed departures during Wednesday’s peak winds, and a couple of flights that were diverted to Sacramento for refueling due to backlogs in San Francisco. But the Federal Aviation Administration indicated there were no major problems at the local airport.

When winds gust like they did this week, it’s up to pilots and airlines to decide whether to push through, or wait for a lull, said FAA’s Ian Gregor. “Air-traffic controllers provide pilots with current weather information. However, the decision on whether to land or take off is up to the pilot in command.”

Planes can handle a lot, including strong crosswinds. High winds didn’t stop a pilot in Chicago from making an impressive landing the with nose pointed at a 45-degree angle to the runway in high winds last month, captured on video by news crews.

The policy is the same regarding bird flocks near takeoff or landing paths. Traffic controllers “advise pilots about locations of large flocks of birds and the direction they appear to be heading, but the decision to delay a takeoff or execute a missed approach is up to the pilot in command,” Gregor said.

Rancho Cordova interchange

Some Gold River residents are upset about neighboring Rancho Cordova’s plan to build a major thoroughfare and freeway interchange at Highway 50 near them. One resident of note, Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, suggested in a letter that Rancho drop the interchange idea, and instead align its planned thoroughfare a bit to the east to connect with the Hazel Avenue interchange.

No thanks, Rancho is saying. The City Council likely will hold a hearing this year, possibly in February or March, on an environmental analysis of the Rancho Cordova Parkway Interchange, an $80 million reliever road for Sunrise Boulevard and Hazel.

The parkway would run parallel to Sunrise from White Rock Road to Highway 50, connecting with 50 halfway between Sunrise and Hazel. The road will dead-end there. Rancho officials say they will build berms, sound walls and add landscaping between houses and freeway ramps.

Rancho Cordova officials say they plan to build the road when 6,500 new homes have been constructed in the Sunrise-Douglas area subdivisions south of Highway 50. That area has about 3,000 homes so far. It was growing quickly in the early 2000s, but construction halted in the recession. Rancho Cordova Public Works Director Cyrus Abhar said at this point he can’t even guess when home construction will be up and running again.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.