Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Flight path gets heavy use

Runway work limits planes to north-south

By James Pilcher, jpilcher@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Landing and takeoff patterns at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport changed Saturday, as taxiway construction forced closure of the airport's east-west runway.

        But only two callers phoned in to complain about jet noise stemming from the changes, airport officials said Monday.

        The landing strip is being closed for three weeks or more to rebuild and extend an existing taxiway to the south of the runway, which forced all traffic to use the airport's two north/south strips. The construction schedule calls for the $8.4 million project to last 24 days, although the construction company could receive a large bonus for finishing early.

        While larger jets used by mainline carriers Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and DHL Worldwide Express are required to remain within certain corridors to maintain noise levels, smaller planes used by regional carriers such as Erlanger-based Comair are not.

        That led to this weekend's new flight departure patterns for the smaller jets, which are quieter than their larger counterparts but still noticeable at lower altitudes.

        Still, the airport noise abatement manager said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the number of calls to the airport's complaint line.

        “It's actually a lot less than I anticipated,” said Barb Schempf, who is also government affairs manager for the airport.

        Airline officials with both Comair and Delta said that the closure should not affect operations, and that it should not cause any more delays than normal, even though there are only two functioning runways.

        “We're not anticipating any delays,” Comair spokesman Nick Miller said Monday. He also said that on-time performance numbers for the weekend were not yet available.

        Ms. Schempf said that as it continues, the taxiway project will shut down nearly half of one of the north/south runways in September, although a start date for that part of the project has yet to be set. That shutdown is tentatively to last 10 days, and will force most jet traffic onto just two runways again. Ms. Schempf said that Comair has agreed to use the shortened runway, which will operate at 6,500 feet long.

        “We're already starting the outreach program around that closure,” she said.


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