Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Columbia County Airport (1B1), Hudson, New York: Federal Aviation Administration's airport reclassification may ease runway safety issues

Initial plans for a 1,000-foot runway safety area at Columbia County Airport could be clipped by as much as 700 feet after the Federal Aviation Administration had the facility’s classification changed.

Steve Urlass, a regional Federal Aviation Administration director, notified the Board of Supervisors’ Airport Committee on Thursday the federal agency reclassified the county’s airport because it saw fewer jet flights per year. Changing classifications from a D-2, to a B-2 airport facility, had to do with the approach, speed and size of the aircraft landing and taking off from Ghent, said Supervisor Art Bassin, D-Ancram, as chairman of the Airport Committee.

“The major difference, though, is they have different requirements for safety zones,” he said. “What the FAA told us was because we didn’t have more than 500 jets per year, they would be comfortable reclassifying us.”

Now the Columbia County Airport’s runway safety area can be regulated at either 600 or 300 feet, depending on approach visibility. The 300-foot alternative, “which would basically solve our problem,” Bassin said, also has the endorsement of the airport’s fixed-base operator, Richmor Aviation.

“We have 200 feet at the end of the runway,” Bassin said. “We could take off 100 feet from the runway and meet the 300-foot requirement.”

He did not have any hard estimates on the total savings, but said “we’re talking about a lot less: less than ($500,000) for the airport safety area, and less than $1 million when we require the (aerial navigation) easements.”

Two months ago, the Board of Supervisors voted 3,209 to 305 in favor of the Airport Committee’s agreed-on plan for a 1,000-foot safety area on the runway’s northern end.

Every county supervisor seated on the Airport Committee but Supervisor Mike Benson, R-New Lebanon, voted for the modified runway plan developed by Supervisor John Porreca Sr., R-Greenport. The committee also includes Supervisors Art Baer, D-Hillsdale, and Mike Benvenuto, R-Ghent.

Projected at $3 million, the Porreca plan keeps the 5,350-foot runway jet-friendly by paving it 450 feet south, and limiting landings at both ends to 4,950 feet through threshold displacements and declared distances.

Not only does the reclassification drastically reduce runway safety area’s size, it also “shortens and shrinks the area for (aerial navigation) easements,” Bassin said. He was unsure, though, of what the new configuration might be.

“We’re going to have to wait and get a design of what the (aerial navigation) easements are,” Bassin said.

Carmen Nero, the principal owner of the airport-adjacent Meadowgreens Golf Course, had initially rejected the county’s $629,000 offer to purchase 16 acres, in addition to 90 acres of aerial navigation easements to build the runway safety area. However, Nero offered in March to sell the entire 150-acre Meadowgreens property for $1.5 million.

He and the committee have not discussed the effects of the FAA’s reclassification, although Bassin said they would “hopefully sit down” together shortly.

“We haven’t had a conversation on (eminent domain) because it has not been appropriate,” Bassin said.

But Columbia County Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons, he added, did draft a request for proposal to that end last year that attracted “three of four” law firms.

“We’re all kind of delighted the way it’s turning out the way it is,” Bassin said. “We’re expecting a letter from the FAA to confirm this is an option for us.”

Source: http://www.registerstar.com

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