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What is an aerotropolis?

As defined by Wikipedia, an aerotropolis is, “an urban plan in which the layout, infrastructure and economy is centered around an airport, existing as an airport city. It is similar in form and function to a traditional metropolis, which contains a central city core and its commuter-linked suburbs.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerotropolis

If the County of San Diego gets its way, El Cajon will become an aerotropolis. The County has plans to expand the airport at Gillespie Field to include a new taxi-way and buildings for more aviation-based businesses using the 70 acres that housed the Cajon Speedway for years. http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/jan/14/gillespie-field-expansion-brings-promise-and-contr/ They want to draw more aviation-based businesses as a way to draw more funds into the economy, but will these businesses really keep the funds here, or will they ultimately take money away from the region and the nation? They say they want to draw in businesses that build planes, but Gillespie Field has become a hot bed for another kind of aviation-based business that is a real concern for East County and the country as a whole.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is helping it right along. But why?

In truth, the County’s idea of turning the airport at Gillespie into an aerotropolis is a smoke screen.  The real intent of expanding the airport is rooted in the FAA and their desire to keep the airport at Gillespie Field going and to fulfill the task given to them by the State Department. The FAA plans to spend $42 million dollars to expand Gillespie to train pilots from developing aviation programs from countries such as China and countries in the Middle East. Why? Because of the Aviation Co-operation Program (ACP) and because the FAA wants job security.

As it stands right now, there are numerous aviation-based businesses at Gillespie Field including the San Diego Air & Space Museum Field Annex and companies that build plane parts and restore old planes.  The booming business for Gillespie Field, however, is flight schools.

The concerns with the flight schools that are based out of Gillespie Field are many.  If there is not an increase in the of number international flight schools based at Gillespie Field with the expansion, then there will be an increase in students.  This brings to mind many concerns regarding the safety, security and health safeguards for local residents and the nation.

Since the implementation of the ACP, the largest groups of customers for these international flight schools are non-English speaking foreign student-pilots primarily from China, India, Latin America and the Middle East.  This is the crux of the issue of the airport expansion.

The State Department created the ACP with the intent of training foreign pilots to receive FAA certification. The first country that they have partnered with is China http://www.uschinaacp.com/. China has money to spend and their aviation program is developing at a double digit growth rate and has a great need of pilots. What’s more, their MILITARY needs pilots too. Countries in the Middle East fit into the same scenario. Some of these oil-rich nations such as Dubai and the United Arab Emirates have started their own airlines.

Part of the FAA and, in turn, the County’s plan for the airport expansion in accordance with the ACP is to build a state-of-the-art training facility for these foreign students.  This program is meant to “promote aviation safety and efficiency in a collaborative manner with aviation interests in foreign countries.” http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/apl/international_affairs/aviation_cooperation/ This will bring even more foreign student-pilots to Gillespie Field with the goal of obtaining FAA certification, and therefore, to the skies above East County. There are many points of contention with this. The first, most horrifying thought is the fact that few of us need to be reminded that the terrorists who high-jacked the planes on 9/11 were trained in American flight schools. The US does not know how these student-pilots will use their knowledge and skills when they complete their training and leave the US. It is no secret that U.S./China relations over the last few decades have been rocky at best. Could China end up using what they learn here in America against us? Also, the terrorists who flew those planes on 9/11 were from the Middle East. This program could lead to another 9/11.

cagelfa.comcagelfa.com cagelfa.com

Currently, NONE of these student-pilots are required to go through a background check or drug testing. Who is to say that potential terrorists are not being trained at this very moment? Along the same thought of safety for our region and our nation is that it is becoming more and more prevalent that terrorists and drug cartels are targeting small airplanes for use against our nation for more attacks or to ferry illegal drugs into our country. http://www.wtop.com/215/2854811/Terrorists-eye-small-airplanes- What’s more, terrorists are also aligning themselves with America’s adversaries in Latin America to not only get around international sanctions, but to create bases of operations closer to American soil.  They are attempting to use drug cartels to have a covert and viable way to enter the United States.
link to HS pdf & http://mccaul.house.gov/uploads/Final%20PDF%20Line%20in%20the%20Sand.pdf

Another terrifying thought is that these students do not speak much English, if at all, are having English immersion training DURING flight training. ENGLISH is the world’s aviation language so they MUST be able to fluently speak and understand it. As they come to learn English, the problem still exists that they have to take the time to translate what the tower tells them so that they can understand it and repeat it back to the tower.  There are quite a few occasions when this is repeated several times before everyone understands each other. How is that safe? How can they be expected to learn English AND how to fly a plane at the same time? How is it safe that people who cannot thoroughly communicate with the control tower are flying above our neighborhoods?

Speaking of safe, we have all noticed that small planes seem to be flying over our homes more often and at low altitudes. This may not only mean more air traffic coming into the region, but more students flying around the region for their flight training. If the County’s plan goes through, this traffic will increase even more. There will be a constant flow of low-flying planes and an increase in touch-and-go landings/take-offs which accounts for 50% of all aviation accidents. http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/sa18.pdf This will also bring about flight training of these students 24/7 for night training. Night flying brings more dangers to the fold, not the least of which is lower visibility.

This leads us to the FAA’s need for job security. In order to train and fly at night, students MUST do so at an airport with an FAA controlled tower. This need will keep the FAA at Gillespie. The airport at Gillespie Field is a general-aviation airport, which means that unlike Lindbergh Field, which is a major hub for commercial and cargo air traffic, the East County airport handles mostly corporate jets and small recreational planes.  The use of general-aviation airports has been on the decline since 2000 and most of these kinds of airports are underused. In fact, the FAA issued a report called “A Plan for the Future” http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/controller_staffing/media/cwp_2012.pdf which indicates that aviation traffic, including general aviation, has declined steadily since the year 2000, by 23%. Yet the federal government keeps pumping billions of dollars into these smaller, less used airports, to keep them open. They are using taxpayer funds to keep these airports running and the only people benefiting are those that fly in and out of the airport and the airport itself. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2009-09-17-little-used-airports_N.htm The FAA also benefits.

The FAA is expanding its market to try to turn the tide of this decline that is not expected to really improve any time soon. By using their $42 million to expand into the vacated 70 acres, at Gillespie and continuing their part in training foreign student-pilots, the FAA achieves their job security despite the continuing decline of general aviation traffic. Expanding the airport at Gillespie and cementing its place as a hub for training foreign student-pilots almost certainly assures its place in the plan for job security. Jerome Pendzick, Manager of the San Diego Division of the FAA has said, “The students have a right to be here and get used to it because more are on the way”.

The money to be expended in the expansion is a grant from the FAA. The problem with this is that if the land at Gillespie Field is used for something other than aviation, this “GRANT” money will have to be paid back to the FAA ON TOP of how much it would cost to purchase the land so that it could be used for something far more useful and much safer for the region, the County and the country. This is going to make it that much harder for any redevelopment possibilities.

Nowhere in the County’s grand plan to expand the airport at Gillespie have they mentioned ANY of this. How is this helping the local economy when the land can be used for something more economically sound and community-oriented and can channel money back into the local economy? Why haven’t they asked the citizens of this region if they want this expansion? Why haven’t they researched other avenues in using such valuable land? WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW.

Not only does the round-the-clock training require FAA control towers and employees, but also a great amount of fuel. Currently there is a new service road being built to handle tanker trucks that carry 8,000 gallons of fuel on trucks weighing upwards of 80,000 pounds. This is being paid for with FAA taxpayer funds. This expected increase in the use of small craft aviation fuel leads to a major safety concern.

Small airplanes use fuel called “avgas”, which unlike fuel for automobiles, is leaded. This region already has a significant amount of residual lead that comes from aviation fuel emissions that soaks into the soil and covers buildings, playgrounds, homes, everything, within the flight path of the planes from Gillespie Field. This will increase with the expansion of the airport. Recent studies have shown that Gillespie Field ranks 9th among 58 airports in lead emissions and among those chosen for further study, Gillespie Field had the highest ambient lead impacts. (link to lead study pdf)There are many dangers to lead exposure and the effects are worse for our children. A study conducted on areas around airports shows a higher level of lead in children’s’ bloodstreams within a 500m radius around the airport. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230438/

Aside from the security and safety concerns, there is also the concern over the U.S. losing its dominance over international travel aviation that it has held for decades. By assisting these countries with their aviation programs, we are slowly, or not so slowly, giving away this domination. How long will it take for China, who is already expanding into international travel aviation and these Middle Eastern countries to take over? How else will this impact our country, especially economically in these uncertain times? WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW.


The white board below shows the plans that the "Powers That Be" have in store for the future of Gillespie Field; a State of the Art Flight Training Center that will cater to foreign student pilots. Click on the picture below to see more detail.


The Gillespie Field Development Council (GFDC) voted unanimously to recommend to the County Board of Supervisors a lease proposal that could total 75 years for land parcels at Gillespie Field. As an additional incentive, the rent on these parcels will be discounted at a rate of 50% for the first two years, continuing at a less discounted rate for the subsequent three years. It appears that the GFDC is desperate to put buildings on such valuable acreage. The downfall to this is that none of these funds will be benefitting the City of El Cajon, they will be going straight back into the airport. Click here to read the lease proposal


Velocity Center for Excellence in Aviation

cagelfa.com gillespie field

Click here to read "Introduction to proposed San Diego campus"

Click here to see Velocity's presentation from the GFDC meeting on September 20, 2017


Click here to see the PDF slide show (diagram) of the completed and next phase of construction at Gillespie Field presented by the Airport Planner from the GFDC meeting on January 17, 2018


The Truth about Aerotropolises


Rose Bridger is a prolific researcher and writer on the impacts of aerotropolis developments around the world. There is a clear trend where elected officials are ‘collaborating’ with developers to create airport projects on steroids. The projects almost always include forced evictions to displace local farmers. Public benefits are grossly oversold while private benefits (to the developer and the elected officials) tend to be narrowly focused. Eventually, if there is any success, it is short-lived as each aerotropolis megadevelopment is eclipsed by the next aerotropolis project. And, again, as with all serial development balloons, the only REALbeneficiaries are the developers and the self-serving officials.

Click here for an article by Ms. Bridger from June 2015


Subsidizing Environmental Destruction:
One of Many Reasons Why ‘Aerotropolis’ is a Bad Idea


Rose Bridger has produced another excellent article, ‘Rise of the Aerotroplis’, published in the Sept/Oct issue of Third World RESURGENCE. Click here to read more




Upset Recovery Training: Not Just a Fad

Upset recovery training has been all the rage over the past couple of years. A Google search of that exact phrase returns more than 24,000 results. There’s a professional association dedicated to such training. ICAO even declared aircraft upsets to be the cause of “more fatalities in scheduled commercial operations than any other category of accidents over the last ten years”. Click here to read more

Jets operating out of Gillespie Field

Check out this video of a Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787-9 and it's unbelievable vertical take-off at a Paris 2015 air show.

Why is the Gillespie Field Trolley stop the worst-ranked transit stop in the state?

Is it because its location is adjacent to an airport which the County has focused it's resources
on expanding therefore, its overlooking improving the areas around it for the community?

Click here to read about The Case of the Worst-Ranked Transit Station in California


Gillespie Field is officially building "A State-of-the-Art Flight Training Center"
on the 70 acres that used to house the El Cajon Speedway.

student pilots training at Gillespie Field

The map above indicates the countries that the foreign student pilots are from that are training at Gillespie Field. Please click the link below to view a map of NATO members and partners for comparison. Click here for NATO map



November 2015 CHECKRIDES list from the Gillespie Airport Offices


PPL = Private Pilot License • CME = Commercial Multiple Engines • IR = Instrument Ratings


December 2015 CHECKRIDES listfrom the Gillespie Airport Offices



Languages Spoken at California Flight Acadamy


• English
• Spanish
• Uzbek
• Tagalog
• Russian
• Mandarin
• Hebrew
• German
• Indonesian
• Hindi
• Farsi
• Sinhalese


• Arabic
• Portugeuse
• Mongolian
• Chinese
• French
• Japanese
• Korean
• Punjabi
• Italian
• Taiwanese
• Yoruba
• Ukranian


PPL = Private Pilot License • CME = Commercial Multiple Engines • IR = Instrument Ratings

Note: East County Magazine was present during the December photo


Gillespie's Guidebook for Survival


ACRP Report 44: A Guidebook for the Preservation of Public-Use Airports

Sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration

Click here to view full report





Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement Launched

Campaigners from across the globe have come together to fight so-called ‘airport city’ or ‘aerotropolis’ schemes, which have been spreading rapidly worldwide in recent years(1).  Environmental and climate justice campaigners, aviation and tourism critics, human rights activists, and other concerned citizens and groups have formed the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) to raise public awareness and take action on socially and ecologically harmful mega-airport development projects.

What is an Aerotropolis, and why must these developments be stopped? By Rose Bridger, March 2015 Click here to read more

Join the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM)! By Anita Pleumarom, March 2015 Click here to read more

(1) GAAM founders:
AirportWatch, U.K., http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/
AirportWatch Europe, http://www.airportwatcheurope.com/
Rose Bridger, author of the book ‘Plane Truth’, http://www.planetruth.net/
Pastoralists Indigenous NGO’s FORUM, Tanzania,  http://www.pingosforum.or.tz/ 
Third World Network,  http://www.twn.my/
Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team, Thailand, http://www.twn.my/tour.htm
Tourism Advocacy & Action Forum (TAAF)



To learn more about the growing movement against the development of aerotropoli throughout the world visit
GAAM ...Click here


Aerotropolis Update

  GAAM Aerotropolis Update No. 3 has been published. It looks at 43 aerotropolis developments, in 29 countries all regions of the world. Major aerotropolis projects are among the largest megaprojects that are planned and under construction. Aerotropolis Update highlights serious concerns including loss of large areas of farmland and wildlife habitat, displacement of rural communities and serious instances of land acquisition injustice. Many aerotropoli receive preferential government treatment, in particular tax breaks, and overlap with special economic zones. Maps created for GAAM show the proposed 80 square kilometre land area for Nijgadh airport and aerotropolis in Nepal, the 95 square kilometre China-Belarus Industrial Park next to Minsk Airport and farmland earmarked for the proposed Airport City Gatwick business park. The Update covers just a fraction of what is happening with airport-centric development worldwide. Material is already being compiled for Update No. 4. Issues 1 and 2 are available on the GAAM Aerotropolis Update page.  

Click here to view the update


FAA numbers show GA's future

Where is general aviation headed? The truth is, nobody knows, but the FAA is paid to try to predict the future. Earlier this year the FAA released these numbers that are as good as any at predicting the future. Click here to read more


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