Mar 13 2009

Ann Arbor Airport Runway Extension

Published by at 10:56 pm under Ideas Bad

I felt like calling the airline pilot that wrote the column in the Other Voices Column in the Ann Arbor News (Friday, March 13). Sol Castell complained about spending money to add 800 ft to the runway.  The pilot while I am sure that he had good intentions, had no idea what he was talking about.

In the article, the 747 pilot stated that the length of the runway has no bearing on the glide slope a plane flies on approach.  While his statement is basically true,  the real problem is not the length of the runway per se,  rather where it is located.  Picture a runway up close to the foothills of the mountains.  The length of the runway (assuming it is long enough) doesn’t dictate the slope of the approach, but the mountains sure do!   That is the problem at the Ann Arbor Airport that we want to fix.  The real motivation for the construction is to move the approach end of the runway away from the nearby road. (State St) If the approach end of the runaway moves west, then planes can fly a shallower and safer approach over the vehicular traffic on State St.

He was also wrong in stating that larger aircraft will be able to use the longer runway.  Sure there may be one or two larger aircraft that will now be able to land on the longer runway, but 800 feet will not significantly change the mix of aircraft arriving and departing.  To attract bigger and noisier aircraft we would have to have at least 5000 feet of runway and a precision approach.  That is not going to happen for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the proximity of Willow Run  which is a much better airport for small business jets.

The thing that will happen is a safer operation. I wish that the pilot had called me before he put out his erroneous information that may cost a future pilot his life.  I was on the Airport Board for 7 years and a commercial pilot for 32 years. There were several very serious overruns while I was on the Board. Luckily none were fatal.   The current members of the the AA Airport Board are pretty smart folks and I can assure you they do not want to waste your money.

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