Monday, April 19, 2004

Lunken compromise before board

Allows larger corporate jets

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EAST END - A proposal to ban scheduled commercial passenger flights from Lunken Airport will be discussed today as part of a compromise that would allow the airport to serve larger corporate jets.

The proposed ban will be introduced today to the Lunken Airport Oversight Advisory Board and to the first of four neighborhood groups meeting between now and May 3. It also could be introduced to Cincinnati City Council later this week. The proposal has the support of Councilman John Cranley.

The proposal supports longer runways and expanded weight limits for corporate jets in return for a ban on regular commercial flights and more noise-control efforts. However, the proposal also calls for taking action months before two studies affecting the airport's future are complete.

"For the good of this city and the neighborhoods, we need to let people know right away we have the ability to ban all commercial airlines and I plan to push for that," Cranley said. "We can permanently end the fear and the possibility of commercial scheduled airlines."

Cincinnati City Council had been expected to decide the future of Lunken Airport later this year. The city's 75-year-old airfield, tucked between the Ohio and Little Miami rivers and hills of the eastern neighborhoods, is used for corporate travel and by private and recreational pilots.

As neighbors complain about noise and fears of commercial aircraft at Lunken, airport corporate users such as Procter & Gamble have said Lunken must expand and modernize or they will be forced to relocate their fleets.

"Our job as elected officials is to get to good compromise as quick as possible," Cranley said. "Why would we allow the anxiety to continue to exasperate?"

Cranley began backing a compromise earlier this year when it was publicly broached during a panel discussion on Lunken hosted by The Cincinnati Enquirer.

At that March 12 forum, Doug Adams, vice chairman of the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition, and Mount Lookout resident Cathy Heiser stressed that Cincinnati must have a written agreement addressing concerns about noise and commercial flights before neighbors would support the airport's expansion.

A corporate airport user, Mike Conaton, chairman of the board of trustees at Xavier University, also agreed the airport should not offer commercial flights.

After meeting privately with city and airport officials Thursday, Cranley announced he would call this week for a ban on commercial flights at Lunken.

But Councilman David Crowley, who chairs a council committee that oversees the airport, says he's not ready to move quite so fast.

He said the airport advisory board should be given until next month to make a recommendation before council considers this proposal. But he shares Cranley's view that a compromise shouldn't have to wait for two studies of Lunken Airport to be complete.

One assesses noise at Lunken and is due to City Council by early summer. The other is the airport's first master plan update since 1989; it is expected to land before City Council in early fall.

Both studies must go on to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval, a process that could take up to a year.

The master plan looks at Lunken's needs for the next 20 years. Preliminary projections show some growth in flights, but still less than the airport's peak traffic in the 1970s.

Residents who have opposed Lunken's expansion say they support efforts to reach a compromise now.

"There are still significant noise problems and other issues we have to address," said Mount Washington resident Judy Zehren, a member of the Lunken Neighborhood Coalition.

"But this is promising. The compromise is very important. We have been doing this for four years and it's finally coming to a head where people are starting to listen."

While Conaton said last week he still supports a compromise that would permit the airport's expansion to move forward, he first wants more information on how the airport's FAA certification may have to be changed to ban commercial aircraft.

Councilmen to meet

In addition to attending today's 4 p.m. Lunken Airport Oversight Advisory Board meeting, Councilmen John Cranley and David Crowley plan to visit some east side community councils to discuss Lunken Airport.

Today: Mount Lookout Civic Association

April 27: Linwood Community Council

April 28: Mount Washington Community Council

May 3: East End Area Council and Columbia Tusculum Community Council



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