Friday, September 11, 2015

Low flying planes elicit complaints: Murfreesboro Municipal Airport (KMBT), Tennessee

Bradford Place resident Missy Peterson says she can wave at the pilots as planes fly over her swimming pool since Murfreesboro Municipal Airport reopened two weeks ago after a runway project.

"I think it's more than what they said it was going to be. It's pretty well extended out there," says Peterson, a local real estate agent. "And the planes aren't coming straight in like they used to. They're coming straight down over the house and over the pool and everything else now."

Peterson, whose neighborhood sits just northeast of the airport, is a veteran of aviation mishaps after having an airplane nearly clip her daughter's bedroom and go down in her backyard just off DeJarnette Lane in 2000.

"I don't know how this is going to work. But I'm not real happy with it," she says, noting the planes seem bigger and the noise louder. They also appear to be taking a different route, coming over her house and then going to the runway rather than flying over State Farm's regional headquarters and then landing.

After a $4.5 million, four-month runway extension and lighting improvement project that started in May, the airport reopened Sept. 4 for daytime operations. The runway is to be closed for short periods as the contractor, LoJac Enterprises, finishes several tasks.

The project involves extending the runway by 852 feet, up to 4,750 feet, but the extension isn't open yet for business, according to Chad Gherke, who manages the airport.

In fact, even though the airport opened for business, its runway is about 700 feet shorter than it has been, which changes the pattern for approaches by about 200 yards, according to Gehrke.

The contractor is expected to wrap up its work in about two weeks, but planes won't be using the full length of the new runway section until February or March after the design process for approaches receives Federal Aviation Administration approval, Gehrke said.

The project included new taxiway connectors, construction of a new LED airfield lighting system and improved signs and drainage designed to meet FAA standards.

Funding came from a combination of local, state and federal funds, with the majority from a state Airfield Pavement Overlay Project. The city borrowed money to pay for its portion of the project.

The general aviation airport, located off Memorial and DeJarnette, houses the MTSU Aerospace Department, one of the nation's top aviation schools.

Several businesses are set up there, as well, including Mike Jones Avionics and Maintenance, Murfreesboro Aviation and Executive Air Express. Vanderbilt LifeFlight also flies out of the airport.

"These businesses, which depend on a fully functioning airport, have been very patient during the construction period," Gehrke said in a statement. "We appreciate their patience and efforts by our engineers and contractors to minimize the airport closure times for the airport and traveling public. The success of this project has been in the teamwork displayed by all of the various companies and agencies involved."

The extension was a serious point of contention, though, for Bradford Place and The Hamptons, as well as residents farther north when it was approved roughly two years ago.

Initially, city officials wanted to extend the runway 1,002 feet. But after opposition from residents, they settled for a compromise of 852 feet.

Peterson, however, wishes the city had moved the airport somewhere else. Some people suggested shifting it to the Walter Hill area. She says she may contact people in her neighborhood association and others to file a complaint with city officials.

"They're coming down a lot lower, and I can just wave at them while I'm laying out by the pool. And you can't talk to anybody," she says.


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