CINCINNATI -- The second-largest airport serving Greater Cincinnati outlined a change that will likely go unnoticed by much of the traveling public, but that doesn't mean they're not important.
Lunken Airport's Airport Layout Plan involves improving non-standard taxiway intersections that the Federal Aviation Administration has identified as potential risks for pilots.
The airport last month completed its plan, which illustrates existing conditions and projections for development over the next 20 years. ALPs are required every so often by the FAA, which uses such reports to justify federal grant funding to ensure airport compliance and recommend improvements. Lunken was last required to update its ALP in 2004.
"When we say 'plan,' it's more like a layout or blueprint," said Airport Manager Fred Anderton, who has spent 11 of his 30-year aviation career at Lunken Airport. "It's sort of like if you were to buy a house, and you have the deed, but you need something showing the exact size of the rooms and placement of plumbing and electrical lines."
The city-owned airport services mostly business travelers, recording anywhere from 70,000 to 90,000 operations -- that is, takeoffs and landings -- in a given year.
The plan also proposes extending and adding a parallel taxiway to two existing runways. Many aircraft that currently use Lunken are limited in their load or travel distance because of the existing runway length. The City of Cincinnati, which owns Lunken Airport, has proposed a longer runway to allow existing users to take off and land with full fuel tanks and seat utility in almost all weather conditions.
As this ALP reflects, major overhaul or expansion at Lunken is at this point a moot question, since the airfield is "landlocked" by a ridge, river, railroad track and interstate highways. While Anderton notes that Lunken is still a valuable component within the region's transportation system, "if you look out the window 10 or 20 years from now, the view will likely look much the same as it does today."
"Everyone assumes we want to do a longer runway because we want bigger airplanes moving in here, but that's not the reason at all," said Anderton. "In 11 years, I've only seen really big aircrafts -- 757 or larger -- twice; once it was the Oakland A's traveling here for a game and the second time it was the president."
The real reasons for the runway extension involve increased efficiency and safety. Since part of Lunken's traffic consists of small recreational and training aircraft -- which take off and land at much slower speeds than corporate jets -- the extension and parallel taxiway, Anderton said, would allow those smaller plans to exit the runway more quickly to keep regular traffic moving safely and on time.
The airport hosted one in a series of upcoming meetings to gather public feedback for the proposed changes, which it will use to make final adjustments to the ALP before submitting to appropriate federal authorities.
Sound is an issue that many residents do notice, since flights take off and land at Lunken around the clock, but much like the airport's physical parameters, the noise level is beyond airport management's control.
"People sometimes ask because of the noise, 'Why don't you just close the airport at night?' We try to explain that we have federal transportation regulations, so even if we wanted to do that, we couldn't," Anderton said.
When Lunken Airport opened in 1925, it was the largest municipal airfield in the world. Over the years, the iconic facility has welcomed sports teams, celebrities, presidents and captains of industry -- and it's even provided the backdrop for major motion pictures.
Lunken tenants include Ultimate Air corporate charter service, an aviation school, the Sky Galley restaurant and smaller charter airline Flamingo Air.
The airport has no plans to seek new airline or commercial charter services, and the runway extension plans will not impact the airport's golf and recreation centers. Those offerings are part of Lunken Airport's ongoing efforts to engage the nearby community.