Feds Say No to Funds For Third Paved Runway at Frederick, Md., Airport

Aug. 9--FREDERICK -- The Federal Aviation Administration has said it will not fund a third paved runway at Frederick Municipal Airport.

"The FAA is saying it will support two runways, but what it will not do is support two runways and a parallel runway to 5/23 (the airport's north-south runway)," said Airport Manager Charles Abell.

Aircraft can land now on runway 5/23 which runs north and south and 12/30 which runs east and west. Less than 20 percent of Frederick Municipal Airport's take-offs and landings happen on runway 12/30.

A third runway, shorter and parallel to runway 5/23, has been proposed in the airport's master plan. It would measure 3,500 feet long and relieve some of the traffic on runway 5/23.

"A parallel runway would make it easier for a tower to control the traffic," Mr. Abell said.

He said parallel runways would allow smaller planes to be routed onto the short runway and runway 5/23 to carry the larger jets.

"We do not meet the threshold for having three paved runways, though," said Frederick City Planning Director Chuck Boyd. He is helping develop the new airport master plan.

Traffic on the two existing runways at the airport has increased 18 percent since 1999.

"By having a parallel runway, it gives you the ability to increase capacity," Mr. Abell said.

Frederick Municipal Airport currently has slightly more than 150,000 takeoffs and landings a year. The airport's capacity is projected by the FAA to be around 225,000 takeoffs and landings.

"There are very few airports that have three runways that are general-aviation class," Mr. Boyd said. "We're not Dulles."

The Airport Master Plan Group will now have to decide whether it wants to improve runway 12/30 or turn it into a turf runway and make the airport's second paved runway the parallel one.

"No pilot wants to give up a hard-surface runway," Mr. Abell said.

Even if Frederick Municipal Airport doesn't get a third hard-surface runway, the issue can be re-addressed in revisions to the master plan as the air traffic moves closer to the volume needed to support a third runway.

The FAA news doesn't discourage Mr. Boyd. He said if the airport creates a new turf runway, "It enables the city to utilize portions of the airport that previously weren't eligible for structures."

Making runway 12/30 into a turf runway won't limit its use.

"If you set up an approved turf runway, it could be used by powered aircraft as well as gliders," Mr. Abell said.

The airport previously had a turf runway near runway 12/30, but it was closed because it was too close to runway 12/30 and was not FAA approved.

Airport officials also want to maintain the airport's economic impact in the county. According to a study prepared for the Maryland Aviation Administration by Martin Associates in Lancaster, Pa., the airport is directly and indirectly responsible for 1,232 jobs and nearly $64 million in personal income.

"Since 9/11, more corporate users have found Frederick to be corporate-friendly," Mr. Abell said.

He said the number of businesses using the airport have jumped from 300 to closer to 400.

The project to lengthen runway 5/23 from 5,200 feet long to 6,000 feet long and widen the distance between runways and taxiways is being done to attract larger jets to the airport.

Mr. Boyd is hoping he might be able to work in some of prep work for the third runway or turf runway with the extension project.

Financially, the project can't be done with the FAA's 95 percent funding contribution. Mr. Boyd pointed out that resurfacing the existing runways cost about $5 million and this project was more involved with grading and stabilization of an area of ground.

"If we had to do it on our own without the FAA, I do not foresee we would be able to afford it with our current revenues streams," Mr. Boyd said.

The master plan group is studying the issue and is not expecting to make a decision on how to proceed until later in the year.