The Airport Commission met Thursday afternoon in Suite Z for the first study session on the Draft Airport Layout Plan (ALP) Update Narrative. “The purpose of today is to share information and ask questions,” said Chair Pam Murphy. “We’re not here to take action or debate.”
Airport Manager Bill Manning explained that the current plan for development projects 148,692 enplanements annually by 2030, with service provided by aircrafts like the Boeing 737-500 or Q-400 that have a wingspan of 100 feet (currently the airport is served by aircrafts with a 93-98 foot wingspan) and 124 seats (current aircrafts have 66-76 seats). The 20 year plan would include a new terminal and 1,200-foot runway expansion, and would seek to upgrade the current MMH ARC (Airport Reference Codes) from B-III to C-III.
Some of the concerns and questions raised by the Commission and the public: what kind of growth-inducing impacts might the ALP have on the town in the next 20 years, with 148,692 annual enplanements? Would the ALP expansion go against the General Plan Land Use Element, which states that the town must “Maintain [its] compact urban form, protect natural… resources, and prevent sprawl?”And what might the growth-inducing impacts be on surrounding communities, like Crowley?
Another question: is the growth rate from the current 25,000 enplanements to 95,000 enplanements in 5 years, and 148,692 enplanements in 20 years, too dramatic? “25,000 to 95,000 is a tremendous growth rate,” said Commissioner John Walter. “It doesn’t seem reasonable to me. I think the methodology for this number should be given in the Draft ALP.”
Walter also wondered about the plan to seek improvements that would allow MMH to upgrade from a B-III to C-III airport. “We’re a ARC B-III airport, but we don’t meet the B-III requirements entirely yet,” he said. “Where does that actually leave us?” Currently MMH maintains its B-III status through a number of deviations from standards granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As local Owen Maloy put it, “We’ve got a substandard airport and we can’t afford to fix it. I don’t think this is the way to go about this, trying to find what requirements we can avoid.”