Airport Runway Extension

A better economic future.


Who would oppose better jobs? Modernized, airports work well to encourage economic growth and sustainability. If we wish to better accommodate our current regional businesses and if we wish to attract new business, Warren County’s Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport needs to modernize. We have an opportunity now that would help make our airport the premier airport of the North Country; that opportunity is to improve runway 1/19 so that it meets contemporary runway length standards.

The fastest growing segment of the aviation industry is the business jet industry, and our 5000 foot runway does not serve that industry well. The most recent standard is a 6000-foot runway. In today’s world, and probably more so in the future, business jets play an integral part in a local economy; they help the economy thrive by bringing in the expertise and capital that fuel the regional economic engine. To assure their economic futures, many other airports around the country have already extended their runways to the 6000-foot standard.

We should not give our local businesses and educated youth reasons to leave the area. A 6000 foot runway will better accommodate the business world, and contribute to more attractive jobs for our region. For example, a popular new business jet, the Gulfstream 650, can be configured to seat as many as 19 passengers, and has a takeoff distance of 5,858 feet, at standard sea level pressure/temperature and with maximum takeoff weight. Business jet wings have been designed to increase speed and fuel efficiency, requiring longer takeoff distances. Obviously a 6000 ft runways is not excessive, but needed by those who currently invest, or would invest, in our region.

The Albany Business Review recently ran an article titled, “Private Flying Soars as Businesses get on Board.” October 21-27, 2016). The article highlights the recent growth in the private jet world, discussing the industry’s new variety of uses. Significant to the business world is the ability of the private jet industry to provide more timely, more direct, and sometimes cheaper transportation. Richmore Aviation manager, Sharon Richards said, “Competition has increased from new companies, such as BlackJet, JetSmarter and others, which offer on-demand services for charter flights similar to car ride-sharing service Uber.” In addition to the benefits mentioned in the above article, a 6,000 foot runway will improve the facilitation of air-freight traffic – something that many businesses evaluate as they consider where they wish to locate.

Infrastructure development has a notable and long history of being the inspiration of economic growth. In the 16th century, Willem van Oranje created an inner harbor, which gave fresh opportunities to expand trade and shipping, an improvement that helped make the little village of Rotte into Europe’s greatest port, Rotterdam. More recently, we could identify the Northway, SUNY Adirondack, or our well-developed water and wastewater facilities as being worthy economic development inducements. The extension of runway 1/19 will work to do the same.

To support the extension of the runway to 6000 feet, professional testimonies have been provided by Tim Malony (of Saratoga Aviation, operates a Hawker 800XP), Gregory Bean (Chief Pilot for Heritage Flight), John Witzig (Director of Operations for CitationShares that operates over 70 business aircraft), and Al Ball (NetJets Manager for Operational Intelligence & Analysis). See Draft Environmental Assessment (Appendix A) for the Warren County Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport and read what those professionals had to say, as they spoke to the need for and benefits of an additional 1,000 feet of runway. In brief, they offered the following:

• The extra runway would help reduce restrictions resulting from the warmth of the summer and/or runway rain or snow contamination;
• FAA rules require passenger carriers to abide by the 60% rule (for a 5,000-foot runway the useable length is only 3,000 feet) which is quite limiting and which many jets cannot manage;
• A 5000 foot runway limits freight loads;
• Short runways (i.e. 5,000 feet) will limit an airport’s ability to be a determining factor in attracting business and in the development of long term economic plans;
• A longer runway would greatly improve aircraft performance;
• A longer runway will provide a safer environment;
• A longer runway would prevent diversions to alternate airports;
• A 6,000 foot runway helps improve aircraft performance;
• A longer runway will provide a more contained environment for noise issues;
• The increased runway will encourage greater usage and would be a boom for the tourism industry (See Draft Environmental Assessment – Appendix A).

Multiple economic studies have reviewed and highlighted the economic impacts of the airport. A 2002 NYSDOT study found that the airport brought in an additional $4.2 million annually that benefited the economy of our local region. A later study, the New York Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study, 2010 technical report, stated, “Study surveys of sponsors and businesses revealed that 37 full- and part-time jobs and $6.6 million in expenditures are the direct result of on-airport businesses, including airport sponsor expenditures, and visitor spending at the airport, including indirect expenditures, the total impact for Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport was $8.3 million, supporting 53 jobs.” A third study, even more recent, done by RA Wiedemann and Associates (February 2015) stated that: Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport supports 97 jobs and generates about $10 million in annual economic impact.

In addition to the positive economic impacts that the airport has on the regional economy, it has also attracted $10 million in grants since 2002. The bottom economic line: The airport has contributed more than $10 to our region for every $1 the county has invested in it. This airport has brought money, business and jobs to the area, all of which have worked to significantly lessen the tax burden on county taxpayers.

There are those who oppose this airport improvement and claim that we do not need a 6000-foot runway. However, their claims are often false or inaccurate or they don’t portray the full picture. One such claim is that we don’t need an extended runway because a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, a large cargo transport, can land there now with our airport’s current 5000 foot runway. Yes, true, but what’s not mentioned is that when landing at our airport, the C-5 lands nearly empty, under suitable pressure/temperature/density conditions, and only with the most qualified of pilots. When fully loaded, the C-5 needs a 8400-foot run. Another claim is that Chicago’s Midway’s airport has only a 4000 foot runway and that airport functions just fine. While it is true that Midway has a 4000 foot runway, but that is only one of Midway’s five runways; its primary runways are both over 6000 feet. The 4000 foot runway is used for light aircraft only. The claims of one opponent of the runway expansion were objectively reviewed by Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson in a document published June 16, 2016, wherein he provided a well-documented response to those claims. Claim after claim was countered and characterized as “false” or “not accurate” or “mixing comments” or “suggestion…was reviewed in detail and rejected”. (See June 16, 2016, letter to Supervisor Doug Beaty from Warren County DPW Superintendent Jeffery Tennyson).

Some of the same opponents also claim that the runway should not be extended because of environmental impacts. But what if, while extending the runway, we could actually improve the environmental conditions of the impacted area? I believe that we can rest assured that the county will work with the NYSDEC and other agencies to assure that environmental disturbances and impacts are eliminated or mitigated so they are not substantial – or possibly, the area’s environment may even improve.

Another obstruction strategy is to tie the airport’s operations costs to the runway extension improvement. The extra 1000 feet of runway might increase operations costs, but the amount would be minimal. Should we investigate reducing costs? Yes, always! However, in this case seeking operational efficiencies should be a separate topic. Combining the two, separate, issues is counterproductive.

How about the cost to us taxpayers? As you have read, the cost will surely be a worthwhile investment. The estimated $8,000,000 project will be 90% funded by FAA funds and 5% by the state, with a local share of about $400,000 or about $6.12 per Warren County resident, about the price of a sandwich. For the most part, the FAA will fund this great opportunity, with funding that can be used only to fund airport improvements.

In return for their $6.12/resident cost, the residents of Warren County will get a significantly improved airport, a safer and more viable Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport; an airport that will better serve business jets, the fastest growing segment of the aviation industry, and the segment of the economy that brings jobs and capital. Improving our airport will open doors of opportunity for our area. Not improving the airport, will close those doors.

John Strough November 2016