Deciding what to do with Burke Airport; Meeting explores some possibilities

Because of a reporter's error, a story in Friday's Metro section about Burke Lakefront Airport misspelled Connie Luhta's name and misidentified her hometown. She is from Concord Township.

The future of Burke Lakefront Airport remains undecided.

The airport has became a topic of interest as residents and officials have raised questions about what role it plays in the region, and whether the airport and Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights, are serving a purpose for the region.

Burke officials displayed the different directions the 450-acre airport could go at a public meeting at Burke Thursday: It could close; or it could stay open, which would require it to make major improvements, such as possibly adding a runway.

Unfortunately because of the downpour that hit Cleveland, the meeting was sparsely attended.

First on the airport's agenda is determining its role and purpose for the region.

Surveys show it hosts different operations, including flight schools, medical transport services and corporate and commercial flights.

Burke had 80,000 operations - a takeoff or a landing - on its runways last year, Vice President Dave Rickerson said. Those numbers are down 20 percent from its high of 100,000 in 2000, according to Federal Aviation Administration statistics.

Rickerson noted that Burke is a part of a system of airports that serve the public that if closed, would create a ripple effect felt at other airports.

"Anything that changes, impacts other airports and that may mean delays at Hopkins or other airports. So it does impact everyone."

For Connie Luhtz, 77, of Cleveland, who works at the museum at the airport and attended the meeting, the airport is indispensable.

"It is a facility that if lost could never be replaced," she said. "It's a matter of where you would go. It is in downtown and accessible. There is no better use of the land."

Rickerson said preliminary surveys have shown that if Burke were to close, a majority of airport traffic would be pushed to Hopkins, which could cause delays and other problems.

Delays would cause life-and-death situations for medical personnel that primarily use Burke to transport patients and organ donations.

One reason they avoid airports such as Hopkins is the risk of delays, Rickerson said.

Though little has been decided, Rickerson and other Burke officials are hoping to have a final plan to present to the FAA by October that can be used to determine the future of the airport.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: dmcgraw@plaind.com, 216-999-4631

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