Tom Wilson was officially appointed to the Fallbrook Airpark Advisory Committee board April 9.
On Feb. 4, the Fallbrook Airpark Advisory Committee recommended that Wilson fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Doug Dwyer, but that recommendation had to be ratified by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. After the processing of the appointment paperwork the county supervisors voted 5-0 to appoint Wilson to the seat.
“It’s an enjoyable development. I’m looking forward to having at least a say in the future of the airport,” Wilson said.
Wilson has been involved with Fallbrook Community Air Park for most of the airport’s history. Wilson, whose father was in the United States Marine Corps, moved throughout the United States after being born at the Naval Air Station hospital in Jacksonville, Fla.
Wilson spent 1 1/2 years in Fallbrook in 1960 and 1961, which included his first kindergarten class, before returning to Fallbrook permanently in 1967. Wilson spent the last month of fifth grade and all of sixth grade at Iowa Street School before two years at Potter Junior High School and four years at Fallbrook High School. After graduating from Fallbrook High School in 1974, Wilson attended Palomar College before obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from San Diego State University.
“Been writing ever since, mainly magazines, some books,” Wilson said. “The vast majority of my work has been in automotive.”
Wilson has written four books, all of which are technical manuals. He has written for various automotive magazines and had a column called “Technical Correspondence” in Road and Track for 16 years. He spent 10 years as the editor of Super Ford, and when that magazine was consolidated and became 5.0 Mustang and Super Fords he was given the position of “editor at large,” which he still maintains.
The oldest of Wilson’s cars is a 1966 Mustang, although his son owns a 1960 Mini which is based at Wilson’s home. Wilson’s newest car is a 2001 Ford Focus.
His airplane is a Starduster Too open-cockpit biplane. Wilson jokes that the aircraft was Poorly-built – it was built by Jack Poor in Socorro, NM. Poor passed away shortly after completing the airplane, and it was sold to Bill Wilbur.
Wilbur hangared the biplane in Fallbrook even though Wilbur didn’t live in San Diego County. “People come from rather long distances to operate out of it,” Wilson said of Fallbrook Community Air Park. “I think it’s a community asset and we should be proud of it.”
Wilson purchased the plane from Wilbur in 1997. The Starduster Too became the first aircraft Wilson owned; from 1973 to 1997 he rented planes from Fallbrook Air Service. Wilson still occasionally rents aircraft from Fallbrook Air Service for training purposes.
Wilson learned to fly at Fallbrook Community Air Park when he was in high school. During his youth, he met many of the founders of Fallbrook Community Air Park. “They definitely saw it as a community asset,” Wilson said.
“The airport was opened and built with very much a community aspect,” Wilson said. “It’s up to the locals to maintain that.”
Wilson has been associated with Fallbrook Community Air Park in some capacity since he was 12. “It’s starting to look like home,” he said.
Wilson worked for Fallbrook Air Service, which was originally owned by Harry and Yvonne Aberle, as a line boy; his duties included pumping gas for the company’s planes as well as waxing, cleaning, and other non-mechanical maintenance.
Harry and Yvonne Aberle also owned Fallbrook Community Air Park, Inc., which had the lease to operate the county-owned airport. That lease expired in 1997, and County Airports took over the operation.
“Until that point I had not been active at all,” Wilson said of his involvement in general airport activities. “I took more of an interest in it as the county took over.”
Wilson was the last president of Fallbrook Community Air Park, Inc., (FACAP) which sued the county to regain control of the airport but was unsuccessful. “I proposed that we just change ourselves into a community service organization,” Wilson said.
FCAP was retained as a legal entity but is now Friends of the Fallbrook Community Air Park. “I’ve been on the FCAP board ever since,” Wilson said.
Wilson was the president of FCAP for seven years before he refused to run again. “It’s good for organizations to look for new people from time to time,” he said.
Wilson agreed to remain on the board as FCAP’s secretary. “I’m very happy to be part of FCAP,” he said.
One of the subsequent FCAP presidents was Dwyer, who served on that board until stepping down in 2012. “Doug Dwyer and I used to be hangarmates,” Wilson said.
Wilson was encouraged to apply for the Fallbrook Airpark Advisory Committee board after Dwyer announced his resignation.
“The advisory board is the best chance that anyone has to give input to the county,” Wilson said.
“The county does listen to the board and it’s important that the local population, especially the pilot population, take an interest,” Wilson said. “It’s up to the local people to put their voice in.”
One issue of concern is the future of the viewing area, which is seen by locals as a community amenity and by some County Airports planners as an obstruction. “That’s a very important part of our air park,” Wilson said. “Probably the biggest overall challenge for the advisory committee is to retain the air park’s community nature.”
The planned taxiway and runway improvements will require leveling of the existing viewing area; Wilson hopes that the county and the local community reach a compromise where a similar viewing area is built in another suitable location.
“The air park’s been a great place not only for the pilots who use it but also for the Fallbrook community,” Wilson said. “I very much would like to maintain that good relationship with the community.”
The airport is built on top of two hills which were bulldozed together. “It’s very, very difficult, basically impossible, to make a longer runway,” Wilson said.
That has advantages for segments of the general aviation community. “It’s a great training airfield,” Wilson said of the Fallbrook airport.
Wilson flies his biplane for recreational flights, and he also uses it for business purposes. His trips to Camarillo which take about three hours by car are about a 55-minute flight.
Wilson believes that the airport master plan has reached a point where it can be achieved contingent upon Federal Aviation Administration grants. “I think we’re past a lot of the challenges,” Wilson said. “The advisory committee needs to maintain vigilance.”