Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Lunken proposal draws support

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MOUNT LOOKOUT - As Lunken Airport's advisory board urges Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley to hold off proposing a ban on commercial air service at today's council meeting, the idea is gaining steam in some of the city's eastern neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, an alternative for how Lunken Airport could expand its main runway was unveiled before airport stakeholders. The 6,101-foot-long runway would extend by 899 feet to the south, remaining on the airport's 1,140 acres.

The proposal is a combination of three previous alternatives as part of Lunken's master plan update, which should wrap up by fall.

About 50 residents who packed the Mount Lookout Civic Association meeting late Monday overwhelmingly supported Cranley's idea to ban commercial service and increase ways to reduce noise, in exchange for expanding runways and weight limits for corporate planes.

"Not only does it meet the needs of the users, but it also ensures that it protects the neighborhoods," said Mary Jo Vanden Berg, president of the Mount Lookout Civic Association.

Cranley's proposal is in conjunction with a Federal Aviation Administration certification coming soon for Lunken Airport. Because there is no scheduled passenger commercial service at Lunken, the new FAA certification for the airport will prohibit it.

Councilman David Crowley also is calling for a compromise soon on the airport's expansion. But he wants the airport board to weigh in before the council acts.

The Lunken Airport Oversight Advisory Board grew concerned this week when the airport's general manager, Dan Dickten, encouraged members not to accept the new certification banning commercial flights, saying that could reduce federal funding and safety requirements for Lunken.

Dickten instead told the board it would be best to seek certification that would permit commercial service by planes of up to 30 seats so the airport would qualify for those items.

The board asked for more time to digest the ramifications of the new certification.

Cranley, however, dismisses Dickten's comments.

"The safety issue is a red herring and scare tactic," he said. "We are way ahead on safety."

But Anderson Township Trustee Al Peter, an airport board member, says small commercial service shouldn't be ruled out yet.

"I hear from about an equal number of the residents here who would like to see some service," Peter said.

Sharon McGee, executive director of Flaming Air Inc., which handles flight tours, ground support and booking at Lunken, showed board members Monday a stack of hundreds of cards from people requesting commercial service.

"Every day we have people stopping in wanting to know when the small commuter service is going to start. There is great demand," she said.


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