Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Lunken advisers support expansion

Longer runways, heavier planes would be allowed; passenger service uncertain

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EAST END - Cincinnati's corporate and general reliever airport should expand its runways and weight limits for planes, most members of a Lunken Airport advisory board that makes recommendations to City Council agreed Tuesday.

The Lunken Airport Oversight Advisory Board is expected to formally vote on recommendations at its next meeting Monday.

The move is a major turning point for Lunken Airport amid a controversy over noise and growth.

Bigger corporate planes

Lunken's corporate users, such as Procter & Gamble, are pushing the city to extend runways and increase weight-bearing capacities to allow corporations to land larger jets there.

"At least we appear to have those things taken care of," said Councilman James Tarbell, who attended Tuesday's meeting at HC Nutting Co. near the airport. "We have to send a message to people their business is welcome here."

Still to be worked out are noise concerns, Lunken's new Federal Aviation Administration certification and whether scheduled passenger commercial service will be allowed.

Councilman John Cranley proposes banning it. Council is expected to vote on that May 12.

New certification

Starting in June, the FAA is going to change future certifications for many of the nation's airports. The changes would take effect in 2005.

Lunken's new certification wouldn't permit scheduled service by planes of up to 30 seats because none is offered there now.

But Lunken's future certification appears to be up in the air. That's because there are conflicting sets of FAA rules, said Eileen Enabnit, director of the city's Department of Transportation and Engineering.

Conflicting rules

When Lunken takes grant money from the FAA, there are several attached commitments - and one is to provide reasonable access to the airport for operators, she explained.

So Lunken may be required to permit scheduled passenger service because of grants that the airport already has accepted under its current certification, she said Tuesday.

"The conflict of rules is an issue for other airports," she said. "The FAA is aware of it and they are trying to resolve the conflict."

Complaints over ban

Two companies that have applied to the city to start scheduled passenger commercial service at Lunken have filed complaints with the FAA over Cranley's proposed ban.

The complaints contend that it is illegal and discriminatory because the airport receives money from the FAA on the basis of its current certification, which permits commercial service.

The companies, JetLink Express of Chicago, and Flamingo Express at Lunken Airport, are requesting that the FAA rule on the matter.

"We are just trying to make a living out here and put revenue and business into the city," said Sharon McGee, president of Flamingo. "As it stands now, if we are in a position to start commercial service and (the city) says we cannot, it's discriminatory."

An e-mail controversy erupted late last week over the airport's manager since 1998, Dan Dickten.

He was put on leave with pay Monday while the city looks into whether some of his recent e-mails violated the city's policy on Internet use and e-mail.

That investigation is continuing. Violations of the e-mail policy can result in discipline up to and including dismissal.


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