Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Citabria 7GCAA: Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, businessman proposes rural airstrip in Rapho Township; public hearing on Friday

A Mount Joy businessman has applied to the state Department of Transportation for permission to build an airstrip in Rapho Township.

David Reist wants to install a 1,400-foot long, 74-foot wide turf airstrip on his farm at 598 Longenecker Road, according to his application.

PennDOT has scheduled a public hearing on the application at 10 a.m. Friday at the Mount Joy Borough Office, 21 E. Main St., according to a public notice.

Erin Waters-Trasatt, a PennDOT spokeswoman, said, “Any time we receive an application for a new airport that is located within 5 miles of an existing airport, we require a public hearing.”

Donegal Springs Airport at 186 Airport Road, East Donegal Township, is 4 miles west of Reist’s proposed Walnut Grove Airport, the application states.

‘Key considerations’

John Melville, aviation safety and licensing supervisor for the state Bureau of Aviation, said his primary concern is making sure there’s adequate space to take off and land.

“Is it long enough, wide enough and clear of obstructions?” he asked. “Those are the key considerations right there.”

The bureau checks if the airstrip is suitable for aircraft by driving down the strip in a car at 50 mph, Melville said. And, he said, they’ll check with the Federal Aviation Administration to be sure there’s no conflict with restricted airspace.

“We won’t license it until we hear back from the FAA,” he said. “But I don’t see the FAA having any reservations about this at all.”

Melville said the bureau also ensures that “fair consideration has been given to the interest of the community,” although he said objections to the land-use proposal should be directed to the township.

Rapho Township manager Sara Gibson said the township “defers authority” to PennDOT and the FAA in cases such as this.

“A private airstrip for an individual property owner’s personal use is not addressed” in the township’s zoning ordinance,” she explained. “If it were a commercial airport, we would have some authority, but not for a private facility.”

According to the FAA, there are 10 public and private-use airfields in Lancaster County, including the Lancaster and Smoketown airports.

‘No major showstoppers’

Reist on Friday will be asked to describe his intended use of the airstrip, Melville said. Based on the application filed in January, he said, the strip will be used for one plane, during daylight hours, for a “recreational, general aviation purpose.”

The application indicates a Citabria 7GCAA aircraft — a single-engine, two-seat airplane built by Bellanca — will be based there.

“There are no major showstoppers here that I can see where we would say it’s not doable,” Melville said.

Melville said he’ll inspect the site Friday, although it appears to meet standards requiring the strip be at least 200 feet from the property line and 300 feet from a public road. The alignment of the strip, he added, should avoid homes or farm structures in the vicinity.

Reist, who owns Reist Popcorn Co. in Mount Joy, did not return several phone calls requesting comment on his application.

The application notes that Henry Reist, David’s father, held a license for Walnut Grove Airport at the same site from 1977 to 1998.

His biography on the company website cites “flying his airplane” as a favorite pastime.

Melville said Reist will be “expected, but not necessarily required” to monitor the radio frequency at Donegal Springs so he can keep tabs on other craft in the air.

And, like all other local aircraft — including traffic from other small airports and medical helicopters — he will be expected to communicate with the tower at Lancaster Airport, Melville said.

Original article can be found here:  http://lancasteronline.com

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