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Expanded Hagerstown runway not ready for 747s

December 06, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - Even with the second-longest runway in the state, Hagerstown Regional Airport won't be landing commercial jumbo jets anytime soon, Airport Manager Carolyn S. Motz said Wednesday.

"We could handle a Boeing 747, but I'd probably have a heart attack while it was happening," Motz said during the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's "Eggs and Issues" meeting at Duffy's on Potomac in Hagerstown.

Motz was the featured speaker at the meeting, and focused her remarks on how the new 7,000-foot runway will benefit the airport and community.

She said she wanted to dispel "rumors and wrong information" about the runway, which opened Nov. 30 and cost $61 million to build.

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Two months before the runway opened, the airport lost its commercial service.

The 7,000-foot runway is shorter only than the runway at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). However, it cannot handle jumbo jets, like Boeing 747s or Airbus 380s, for cargo or commercial use, Motz said.

She said the airport occasionally lands jumbo jets from President George W. Bush's Air Force One fleet, but said those jets are not as hard to handle as planes with a full load of passengers or cargo.

Instead, airport officials hope to bring regional commercial jets to the airport. Motz said regional jets can hold about 50 people, compared with the 19-seat planes that Air Midwest flew between Hagerstown and Pittsburgh.

"We know you folks want this," Motz said to the audience, which included county government officials and local business leaders.

Air Midwest left the airport in September after a federal subsidy it received to provide service to the airport expired. A bill that would extend the subsidy through September 2008 is being finalized by Congress.

Motz said airport officials would like to offer connecting flights to BWI, but that airport's two major airlines, Southwest and Air Tran, do not connect with regional carriers.

"We are really interested in what Baltimore is doing, but it has to be under the right circumstances. We have to be able to connect with airlines at Baltimore before people are willing to fly on it," Motz said.

Airport officials are working with Maryland Aviation Administration, which owns BWI, to find a way to connect the two airports, Motz said.

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