Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Many support Lunken upgrade

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EAST END - The heated debate over possible expansion at Lunken Airport grew hotter Monday.

More than 100 people packed a meeting where three City Council members discussed the airport's future and its impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

Most of those who addressed council's Community Development, Education and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Monday at Lunken were supportive of the airport modernizing to realize its full economic potential. Among that contingent were airport users, employees, a representative from the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and some neighbors.

"Let's remove the artificial limits of runway weight and length, without opening the door for larger commercial airlines, and let's preserve Lunken's future as a corporate gateway for Cincinnati," said Ky Webb, chief pilot for Jet Resource at Lunken.

Procter & Gamble also announced Monday it has purchased a larger jet that provides ultra long-range capability required to meet its business needs.

An interim model, a Gulfstream G-V, is expected to arrive Thursday and will serve until the G550 P&G purchased for $44.7 million arrives in Spring 2005, said Ken Robinson, P&G's chief pilot.

P&G doesn't expect to operate fully loaded flights very often but can seek a waiver to fly out of the airport at maximum takeoff weight when necessary.

But the company will have no choice but to pull out of Lunken if the airport's doesn't raise its published weight bearing capacity for planes and add to runway lengths, said Robinson and Louise Hughes, P&G's director of Ohio government relations and corporate affairs.

Council members David Crowley, committee chairman, Christopher Smitherman and James Tarbell heard updates from city staffers and consultants about two ongoing studies at the airport - one accessing noise levels and a second updating Lunken's master plan.

Tarbell said Monday the city must "maximize and modernize" its 1,140 acre-airport.

"I don't know of an issue that has been debated more....I can't endorse going ahead anymore strongly," he said.

But some neighbors along Cincinnati's eastern corridor who spoke Monday were opposed to additional planes flying over their homes. If companies such as P&G want to expand their fleet, they should move operations to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, some said.

"We want to support it, but we do not want it to expand. We are concerned about our property values and quality of life we need to protect and we ask you to help us do that," said Mary Howard of the Mount Lookout/Linwood area and a member of the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition.

After the meeting, Howard and a few other east side residents said they felt their pleas fell on deaf ears Monday.

"I feel like the determination has been made. Corporate rules," she said. "If P&G requests it, it will happen. Our hands are pretty much tied. There's not enough money or energy to fight City Hall."

The noise study and master plan update are expected to be completed this year.

The reports would then go before City Council members and then on to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval, said Eileen Enabnit, director of the city's department of transportation and engineering, which oversees the airport.

Trial flight path

A new trial flight path for training flights from Lunken Airport will start after a noise study under way wraps up, expected this spring. The test period will last for 90 days.

The new flight path will run further along the north from the Ohio River over the Delta Avenue corridor in Columbia Tusculum and wrap back around to the airport over Mount Lookout, said Bob Vickery, supervising engineer for the city's department of transportation and engineering.

Now, test flights run over the top of Mount Lookout, which is higher than the Delta Avenue corridor, Vickery added.

E mail jedwards@enquirer.com

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