Hard numbers back up runway plan

June 22, 2003|by Doris Nipps

During the last several weeks, residents of Washington County have contacted me regarding the runway extension project at the Hagerstown Regional Airport. I hope this letter will help clarify facts of the project.

The airport was established in 1928 as a grass runway and paved in 1936. Three extensions have been constructed since that time, with the last reconstruction in 1970. The control tower, which is operated by the FAA, was constructed in 1973. The airport occupies 647 acres, with 204 aircraft based at the airport.

The Airport Master Plan was revised and completed in 1991, the same year the new terminal was constructed. In the master plan revision, the need for a runway extension was analyzed and evaluated. In 1999, an updated analysis was initiated. In that analysis, it was recommended that the process begin to plan for an extension within the years 2000-2007. The analysis cited several reasons, but the one I would like to focus on is that-"There are existing operational limitations to Runway 9/27." This reason came from surveys given to the airport stakeholders and air carriers. Several stakeholders (businesses located at the airport or businesses which use the airport) indicated that the existing length was not sufficient to meet their current and projected needs.


The United States Air Force 99th Airlift Squadron indicated that the runway extension would allow them to operate all aircraft within their fleet including 757s and DC9s. The Air Force currently uses the Hagerstown Airport for training and also as a base for transportation of officials to Camp David, however the extension will allow more extensive training to be done.

In January of 2000 a letter of support for the project was received by the Maryland Department of Transportation as well as Northrop Grumman-California Microwave Systems, which stated that the extension would allow them to bid on projects they cannot currently do at Hagerstown and that "The potential impact in the Hagerstown economic base could be an increase in the current work force by 150 and an average of $10 million per year for 10 years." Access of air charter flights has also been denied because of the current runway length.

On Feb. 25, 2002, the County Commissioners sent a letter of intent to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting consideration for funding for the runway extension construction project.

In June 2002, a benefit/cost analysis was done. Following are some facts from the report:

In 2000: There were 49,942 aircraft operations with 28,109 passenger enplanements.

In 2001: There were 52,001 aircraft operations with 25,617 passenger enplanements.

The FAA forecasts that these numbers will increase to 59,201 aircraft operations and 32,497 passenger enplanements by 2005.

In 2007 the airport must adhere to the FAA standard for runway safety areas. If the extension from 5,461 feet to 7,000 feet does not occur, we will lose:

- Much of the potential growth of the newly created foreign trade zone at the airport.

- The 40 corporate charter flights/year.

- Commercial air carrier service, which would result in the equivalent loss of 31-35 full-time employees. Annual loss of output to the local economy is estimated at $1,289,000.

- Expansion of services and possible inability to retain Northrop-Grumman. They are looking at the possibility of adding 75 additional jobs with annual wages of $3.2 million. This expanded operation would result in an increase of 125 jobs (direct, indirect and induced) locally.

- Expansion of services at Aviation Resources, including an increase in personnel.

- The 99th Airlift Squadron training exercises.

In May 2001, an economic impact study was conducted for the Maryland Aviation Administration. Following are facts from the report:

- Twenty-nine businesses are located at the airport site employing 246 people. An additional 316 jobs are indirectly created because of the businesses at the airport.

- $8.2 million is paid in salaries annually to those employed on site. An additional $10.1 million in salaries to people who do business with airport-based businesses.

- General revenue created by site-based businesses is $18.6 million. Additional revenue created by off-site businesses, $7.8 million

- $ 3.2 million taxes paid annually by airport businesses. Additional taxes generated by off-site businesses, $1.4 million.

- $200,000 in purchases with local businesses.

- "Maintaining or reducing the length of the Runway 9/27 would reduce the amount of business that can be conducted."

- Services provided at the airport-fuel sales, major airframe service, major power plant service, flight instruction, aircraft rental and sales, commuter air passenger service, avionics service, charter flights, air cargo, aircraft maintenance, automobile rentals, corporate flight departments, control tower, T-hangars and tie downs.

- $50 million total yearly economic impact to the region.

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