[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Flagstaff runway extension critic bores in"
Monday, July 11, 2005
Runway extension critic bores in
By RACHEL PETERSON
The Flagstaff (AZ) Sun
Long in the planning process, the proposed runway extension at Pulliam
Airport that will enable commuter jets to fly here has come under scrutiny
by one airport commissioner as the project comes to the board's table this
Commissioner Paul Jones said there hasn't been adequate notice to the public
of the project that was first approved in the airport's master plan in 1991.
His concern is that aircraft noise would multiply in neighborhoods on the
south end of town because planes taking off later would be flying lower over
homes near Lake Mary Road.
Take-off is the noisiest time of a flight, and after-the-fact complaints
could result in restricting the hours of the airport, he said.
But proponents of the estimated $12 million project say safety, existing
service improvement and opening the door for future airlines and businesses
in Flagstaff outweigh a noise increase that hasn't been determined will
"They're quadrupling, at least, the noise factor because there's going to be
less than half the distance," Jones said. "But these people (who live
nearby) don't have a clue what's going on. We're voting to approve the plan,
which means it's basically a done deal and they never had any input."
But Mike Covalt, airport manager, said the noise will be about the same as
or less than what it is today with the commuter jets.
"The regional jet aircraft are actually the quietest transport in the
fleet," he said.
Although the environmental assessment won't be completed for another few
weeks, it's evident the "impacts can be less than if we don't do it in many
ways," Covalt said. In addition to being quieter, the craft are more
fuel-efficient. Their use of the runway also will keep larger planes coming
to Flagstaff, preventing a greater increase of flights because of fewer
seats in each plane, he said.
Jones' other big concern is that after the construction, it wouldn't prove
cost-efficient to fly commuter jet planes in Flagstaff. He said jets won't
fly here because the short flights between Flagstaff and Phoenix wouldn't
enable the aircraft to reach an altitude where it's more fuel efficient,
"The only reason the airlines are in business is to make money. If they
can't make money, then they're not going to do it," he said.
That's not necessarily true, said Orville Wiseman, owner of Wiseman Aviation
at Pulliam Airport.
"It's the trend of the industry to go to regional jets, and it makes more
sense to run a consistent fleet than some of this and some of that."
At one point even Mesa Airlines, Flagstaff's service operating under America
West Express, had indicated the company would soon phase out their turbo
prop planes for the jets.
"Now I think they're going to keep them a while," Covalt said.
The airline is operating commuter jets from other airports, and bringing
that type of service here could benefit flyers and the economic development
of Flagstaff, said Jennifer Graves, director of business retention and
expansion for the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council.
"Air service limitations is one of the top reasons businesses won't locate
here," she said of several technology and manufacturing firms who have
declined to come to Flagstaff. In addition, local businesses have rated the
airport below average for quality and availability of service, she said.
For companies like W.L. Gore, which spends about $2 million annually in
flights for their employees, and other business prospects the airline
service can make or break the deal, she said.
"Connectivity is really important to them because most of the time they
still have an office on the east coast."
Even some residents of the nearby neighborhoods, who gave Jones their
contact information when he went to their homes to rally against the
extension, are supportive of the extension.
"I really only know one side of it -- what Paul was saying-- but to be
honest with you it doesn't bother me much," said Bennett Estates resident
Mike Warfield. "If the airport can actually do better, it wouldn't bother
What the dispute is about
The Issue: The 1800-foot runway extension at Pulliam Airport, part of the
airport's master plan and before the airport commission this week, is under
scrutiny by one of the commissioners, who thinks the project should be
Opponent: The extension is a waste of $12 million because Flagstaff is too
close to Phoenix for commuter jet flights to be cost-effective and therefore
airlines won't fly the route. The extension also will lower the height at
which ascending airplanes fly over Lake Mary Road and the nearby houses,
increasing noise levels.
Proponents: Many airlines, including American West, are slowly changing
their commuter plane fleets to jets, which are the quietest of all
commercial aircraft and more fuel efficient. In addition, a jet-friendly
airport could attract more businesses to locate in Flagstaff. Also,
extending the runway will make the flight safer for all aircraft.
What's next: The airport commission will vote this week to recommend
approval or denial of the project to the Flagstaff City Council. The Council
will discuss the item in a work session at 4 p.m. Aug. 8
Do you have an opinion about this story?
Share it with other readers in our CAA Discussion Forums
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at email@example.com