An Analysis of the Aviation Impacts Caused by Molalla Skydive

Skydive Oregon Airport is located one mile west of Molalla, and has a short north-south runway, just 70-feet from the edge of Hwy 211. The Form 5010 for this airport says there are hangars and roughly 20 aircraft based there, but no fuel or other services. It also says there are an average 50 operations per month (that’s less than one takeoff per day!), but this is an incredibly low figure; more likely, the true average is between 1,000 and 1,500 operations per month.

Most importantly, the airport’s statistical data is nearly 30-years old — marked as from 1988! Evidently, FAA puts no pressure on airport operators to keep current on the data FAA needs to manage the NAS. The airport owner is listed as 1,000 Friends of Aviation, Inc. at 5900 Wildwind Drive SE, in Salem, OR. The contact person is Norman K. Purdy, phone 503-363-3621. [a 5/10/13 phonecall shows this number has been disconnected]

Nearly all operations are conducted by Oregon Skydive. They fly two Cessna 208 Caravans and a Cessna Skylane. During summer daylight hours, they fly almost continuously, two or more flights per hour. Their flights typically depart to the north, fly toward Mulino, then turn east. They execute their climbs to the east of the Molalla River, circling within the area between Union Mills, Clarkes, and Meadowbrook. As they approach their drop altitudes (normally 13,000’ to as high as 18,000’), they proceed back toward Oregon Skydive Airport and the jumpers exit the airplane, which then quickly dives to land ahead of the parachutists. The residents most impacted live to the south and east of the Skydive Airport, and in areas much further east, where the aircraft circle during long, slow climbs

Skydive flights typically depart north toward Mulino, turn east and climb (sometimes circling) between Union Mills and Meadowbrook, then proceed west from Feyrer Park to their drop over Skydive.

This particular climbing route is necessitated by the conflict that these flights have with commercial arrivals to PDX. Essentially, the arrivals from California and other points to the south are routed on the MOXEE Arrival (see below), which has them crossing the western part of Molalla, normally at 8,000 to 12,000’. The PDX radar facility has requested that Skydive conduct their climbs to the east of the Molalla River, away from the descending arrivals. It is not clear if rural residents impacted by this lengthy climb noise were ever involved in the decision that shifted this noise pollution onto their homes.

For Oregon Skydive, this climb route works well to offset their noise impact onto people far from the airport. As a general rule, people on the ground only notice flights within a certain distance of their location. Thus, if an overflying aircraft passes at least two miles away from a person, the noise may not be heard at all, or very likely will be very muted. So, if a skydiving operator routinely avoids climbing near the jump airport and does the climbs at least two miles away, the local airport neighbors will be led to believe the activity has no noise impact. Plus, if the climb is done far enough away, those impacted ‘neighbors’ may have no clue that the noise is related to a distant skydiving jump zone.

KPDX.. MOXEE SIX STAR, with skydive markups

(MOXEE Arrival, for flights inbound to PDX from California, Nevada, and Arizona)

Oregon Skydive sells its product via a website and numerous bus-stop ads throughout the Portland metro area. Portland residents who come out to Molalla for parachuting are likely unaware of the adverse noise impact caused by the money they pay to Oregon Skydive.

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PAGE CREATED: 2015-08-08