Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Airport seeks grant for precision navigation

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is seeking federal financial help in its fight against one of the primary complaints about airport noise — planes flying over homes outside official flight corridors.

        The airport has applied for a Federal Aviation Administration grant to use satellite navigation technology to ensure adherence to flight paths while helping eliminate incursions — or close calls — on the runways.

        Airline officials stress that their current navigation systems are safe but that new systems would allow more precision — a key in adhering to tight noise-abatement corridors.

        “We get calls all the time on that issue, so it's good to see them doing something about it,” Green Township administrator Tom Maley said Monday after a meeting of the air service committee of the Kenton County Airport Board.

        “I just had one the other day that I thought I would have to open my windows to let them through the house.”

        The FAA has agreed to pay 33 percent up to a maximum of $15 million for 10 airport projects nationwide that show they will improve capacity and enhance airspace control procedures.

        The local airport is one of 17 to apply for the funds. Recipients will be announced before July 13.

        Given approval, the airport could have new technology and procedures in place by early next year, said Barb Schempf, airport noise abatement manager.

        She said new systems will help with air traffic and airspace is sues, since all ground vehicles (luggage carts, snowplows and others) will be tracked via satellite.

        That should help reduce the likelihood of aircraft getting too close to other aircraft or ground vehicles while landing or taking off.

        But Ms. Schempf said the new system also could be used to make sure airplanes equipped with the technology fly precise routes. That should ensure planes fly within corridors agreed to by the airport, airlines and local communities.

        “If you've got two subdivisions a mile apart and one is inside the noise corridor and one is outside, we (will be able to) fly right down the middle a half-mile from either one,” said Keith Stover, Delta Air Lines assistant manager for technical requirements, who has been working with airport officials on preliminary plans for the project.

        “It's that exact.”

        FAA officials say most noise corridor deviations are due to safety reasons, such as avoiding an oncoming thunderstorm or staying clear of other air traffic.

        The land system and a surface management system would cost the airport $4.2 million, but that does not cover equipment for the individual planes.

        About 75 Delta planes are equipped with the new technology, Mr. Stover said. Another 300 would need to be updated, at $500,000 apiece. A plan is in place to buy the new equipment but has yet to be approved.

        “If the land technology is in place or been approved, that helps us justify the cost,” Mr. Stover said.


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