Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Airport changes could be delayed

Council responds to Lunken gripes

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Council members want to halt all expansions at Lunken Airport — including one proposed by billionaire investor Warren Buffet's charter jet company — until an oversight board is formed to keep an eye on airport operations.

        Creating a Lunken Airport Oversight Board is a way to remedy the city administration's lack of response to concerns of residents in Mount Lookout, Linwood, Mount Washington and other communities near the airport, Councilman Todd Portune said.

        But it also would delay Executive Jet Management's plans to start construction this month of a regional maintenance facility for corporate jets. The facility would include 75,000 square feet of hangar and office space for its corporate headquarters and 80,000 square feet of runway space.

        “Suffice to say, we will be harmed,” if it takes more than 30 days for the new board to form and vote on Executive Jet Management's expansion, said Jeff Cryder, the company's senior vice president of finance. “We are willing to find common ground with the communities.”

        In a committee meeting Monday, City Council members recommended that city lawyers meet with surrounding communities to create the new board to decide “the nature and extent of Lunken Airport operations.”

        City Council will decide Wednesday whether to form the new board. Speaking on behalf of dozens of people attending Monday's meeting, Dan Roche of the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition blamed the airport expansion on “unbridled greed” of corporate executives who benefit from private jets at the expense of communities.

        “This facility should be put in the cornfields of Warren County,” Mr. Roche said.

        Mr. Cryder promised that Executive Jet Management has no plans to fly into Lunken larger aircraft, such as Boeing 737 passenger jets.

        Executive Jet Management's average of 20 daily flights at Lunken would increase by six after the expansion, Mr. Cryder said.

        It would take on more flights from its sister company, Executive Jet Aviation of Columbus. Both companies are owned by Mr. Buffet's Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway, an investment company geared toward the wealthy.

        Any delay in construction could disrupt a contract Executive Jet Management has with Ohio National Financial Services.

        The charter jet company agreed to vacate and hand over its Lunken space next year to Ohio National.


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