The Lorain County Regional Airport plans to lengthen its runway by more than 25 percent, a move that could reignite concern in nearby Oberlin and its world-renowned music school.
Airport officials have filed plans with the Federal Aviation Administration to extend the 5,000-foot runway to 6,500 feet, said Rob Johnston, president of Johnston Aviation, which manages the airport for the county.
The shorter runway accommodates light jets including Lear, Citation and Beech planes that seat six to eight people. Extending the runway could attract planes that seat 10 to 12 people but need more room to take off and land, he said.
David Stull, dean of the Oberlin College Conservatory, said he has no problem with airport expansion as long as the airport enforces regulations to keep air traffic on the north side of the airport.
"It doesn't help to have jets flying overhead, especially if the Cleveland Orchestra is performing here or if we're recording something," said Stull, who also pilots a Cessna 172 rented from the airport.
Johnston said the runway would cost about $4.5 million and take three to five years to build. Ninety percent of the funding would come from the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
Bigger planes would not mean more noise, he said, because newer aircraft are quieter.
Johnston disputes two studies in the 1990s that said lengthening the runway was unnecessary.
In 1999, a study by Global Aviation Associates of Washington, D.C., said the airport was unlikely to become a significant commercial passenger or cargo operation because it is too close to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
The conclusions were nearly the same as those reached earlier that year by URS Greiner Woodward Clyde of Columbus, a consulting firm that found the airport had too few businesses or corporations to justify lengthening the runway.
Johnston said the situation has changed dramatically since those studies. Freight and charter services have more demand for smaller airports because Cleveland doesn't have the hangar space for them anymore, he said.
"There's a need for point-to-point business aircraft and small business charters, and it will continue to grow," he said. "And our airport is a prime candidate for this growth."
Oberlin City Council President Daniel Gardner said council would soon extend a formal invitation to airport officials to discuss the runway and noise issues.
"We're concerned about noise, as well as increased truck traffic carrying cargo through the city," Gardner said. "But our residents know there's a need for good economic development, too."
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