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Airport shifts frequency for safer skies

Eileen JoyceAirport operations supervisor Rob Kopp talks on the UNICOM radio at the Nevada County Airport Thursday. Starting today the airport will change its frequency to relieve radio congestion.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

To reduce radio congestion and make for safer skies, the Nevada County Airport is switching to a new, less-crowded radio frequency today.

Just about all the airports in the area are on the old frequency, so at times it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, said Rob Kopp, airport operations supervisor.



“I mean, it’s bad down here,” said Kopp over the noise of the radio at the airport’s operations center, “but when you’re up there, it’s even worse.”




Pilots can radio the airport during business hours to ask for landing advisories, but when the operations center is closed, they rely on the radio to communicate among themselves, Kopp said.

Since the airport doesn’t have a traffic control tower, pilots communicate with each other to maintain separation, announce their direction of flight and what runway they’re landing on “so basically everyone knows where everyone is,” said airport manager Gary Petersen.

Gordon Mills, a local pilot and owner of Alpine Aviation, said the switch from the old UNICOM radio 123.00 frequency to 122.725 is a good idea.

Mills said the old frequency picks up radio traffic from Nevada to the California coast.

“You get out here on a Saturday or Sunday and you can’t even use the radio because all the airports are on it,” Mills said. “It’s about time someone did something about it.”

Petersen said an increase in air traffic created congestion on the old frequency, resulting in unsafe conditions in the airport’s flight patterns.

“It gets really chaotic when all the airports are using the frequency at the same time,” Petersen said. “With the new frequency, pilots using the Nevada County Airport will be able to talk tox each other without interference.”

Petersen said the new frequency will come in handy when California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection air tankers start flying out of the airport during fire season and traffic patterns get crowded.

Getting the new frequency didn’t cost the county any money, but the change took about a year’s worth of paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission, Petersen said.

“But it’s well worth it, because it makes things much safer, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.


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