Longer runway an unsafe scenario
June 17, 2010
Several years ago many of us attended the first meeting for the expansion of our airport. I personally expressed the view that the airport works fairly well, respects our community and is a very safe operation. Several of us expressed our fears that major changes could make the operation less safe for many reasons.
This coming Wednesday the airport people will bring their final proposal to the county commissioners for an (informal) hearing. I believe that means public stay away and let’s get this over with. They have three options for runway extensions: Long, short and shorter, with their preference being the longest (1,000 feet). They are saying that this will be the safest and will in the long run enable existing aircraft to remain fully loaded during the hottest days, thereby bringing many more customers to our little paradise.
They have indicated there will be no chance of larger aircraft using the longer runway. I guarantee that this is a major misrepresentation of the facts. If they had wanted just a safe, more efficient operation they would have picked one of the shorter extensions. Here is the problem with larger aircraft. First, the rules of aviation still apply: Hot air is thinner, the new aircraft will still have to leave passengers or baggage on hot days, and nothing will change. What will change is that we will have heavier aircraft, probably less-qualified crews, in case of an accident much more damage over a larger area, probably higher minimums with many more diverted flights, crash rescue equipment, more radical maintenance problems, different parking problems; the list goes on and on.
Many years ago I was on the accident investigation board for the Air Defense Command in Alaska, and came to know the problems associated with mountain flying. I also was a training officer looking at the airport requirements at the Air Force Academy. Many things were taken into consideration, which hasn’t been done here.
As a commercial pilot, I watched in amazement when the new runway was built at Stapleton Airport. The new runway was supposed to allow for simultaneous takeoffs and landings, but it was built too close to the other one to make that legally possible. At DIA, Pena scratched the light rail to downtown in order to enhance the income from the parking garage, really an incredible lack of judgment from the future czar of transportation in Washington.
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As we have recently relearned, money, more money and greed seem to drive all our decisions in our world today. We have a great airport; add a few hundred feet to the runways and make it a little bit safer, and forget the strictly financial numbers that are driving this very serious error in judgment.