NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday approved a land use change to allow the construction of the sheriff's hangar near the Land O'Lakes jail, over the objections of a nearby airport manager who said the helicopters could pose a danger to planes landing at his runways.
The Federal Aviation Administration has the final say over the hangar, which Pasco Sheriff Bob White would build at the northeast corner of Land O'Lakes Boulevard and Central Boulevard. The helipad would be used for the sheriff's four patrol helicopters, which are currently housed at Hidden Lake Airport.
David Parks, manager of Pilot Country Airport, about a mile away on State Road 52, said he worries that planes landing on some of his runways may not see the helicopters climbing to the north.
The problem, he said before the meeting, is that Pilot Country has no control tower and the airplane pilots aren't required to carry radios.
"This location poses a hazard," he told commissioners.
The Sheriff's Office had talked to Pilot Country about six months ago about buying land at the airport for the hangar but decided to locate near the jail instead.
Sheriff's pilot John Perez told commissioners the new location would work as well as things have at Hidden Lakes. He said the helicopter pilots would transmit on Pilot Country's frequency.
"I'm comfortable with the safety situation," he said.
Commissioners said the issue before them was a land use decision, not a safety one, which is up to federal authorities.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.