Extending airport runway: Why we back this project

June 17, 2003

Within four years, new safety rules issued by the Federal Aviation Administration will require local airports to have larger buffer areas at the end of each runway.

That would place new restrictions on the turboprop planes that now use the Hagerstown Regional Airport. And it might prevent the use of regional jets there, at a time when airlines are expected to add more of those planes to their fleets.

Can Washington County afford to lose air service now or in the near future? Not when domestic air travel is projected to increase from 27.2 million takeoffs and landings in 1997 to 35.4 million by 2012.

As reported by USA Today, that sort of growth is expected to put a strain on the nation's top 100 airports, which means that future air travel business will go to those facilities that are prepared to handle it.


That's why we are endorsing the project to extend one runway at the Hagerstown Regional Airport from 5,450 to 7,000 feet.

Not only will the longer runway provide for future business, but it will prevent existing air service from going to Martinsburg, W.Va., or to Frederick, which Commissioner Doris Nipps said is now making plans to lengthen its runway.

In a letter to the editor that will run this coming Sunday, Nipps also argues that loss of air service here would adversely impact airport businesses that service planes or depend on air travel for their revenue.

Not doing the project would turn the airport into a field for recreational flyers of small craft, effectively reducing revenue without any real cuts in operation or maintenance costs.

Whether it's providing business for high-tech aircraft maintenance firms or maintaining air service for those who want to make connections with one of the metropolitan airports, this project makes good economic sense.

That's not to say that it will be easy, but not doing it will ultimately cost the county more than it will invest now, even if it must finance the work and be repaid by FAA later.

Just as citizens build equity by investing in homes that will increase in value later, the community must invest in the airport now to be prepared for the future.

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