Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Airport extends flight-pattern test

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - The testing of different late-night flight patterns is being extended another month, airport officials said Monday, primarily because bad weather rendered the data from February invalid.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been conducting the 90-day test to seek more efficient ways to use the three runways at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and stay within noise limits.

Barb Schempf, the airport's manager of governmental affairs, said at the airport board's monthly meeting that the test now will end April 22.

She added that local air traffic officials have indicated they would seek three more 90-day tests over the course of the year.

"They are trying to evaluate the best way to handle the increased traffic during the late hours while staying within the noise limits and mitigating the impact," Schempf said. "And there was no way to tell in February whether certain runways were used because of the tests or because a runway was closed due to snow."

The test shortens the hours that normal nighttime procedures are used, with after-hours now consisting of 11 p.m-7 a.m. That's an hour later start time.

The test also places different runways and approach/departure patterns as priorities.

Hamilton County auditor and longtime airport critic Dusty Rhodes said the tests were just a way for the airport and the FAA to break deals between the airport and the Sisters of Charity, as well as Delhi Township, to keep noise below a certain level. Those two agreements were reached in the late 1980s, just before the last runway was built. The tests are "just window dressing," Rhodes said. "I hate to be the one to say, `I told you so,' but there is no way you can trust them. This is just a device to break that agreement."

E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com.

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