Opinion: Middlebury Airport improvement plan makes sense
In response to the article “Residents wary of airport upgrades” in the Dec. 4 Independent, safety at the Middlebury Airport is the focus of ongoing and upcoming improvements.
Several years ago, I attended a public meeting hosted by J&M Aviation at Middlebury Airport, where the Vermont Agency of Transportation announced many long term plans to upgrade safety at many state airports, including Middlebury Airport. The meeting was attended by many local residents, pilots, and several state representatives.
Several safety projects were determined to be more important at the time and it was announced that those safety projects would be done first.
The first safety project changed the landing pattern on Runway 19, which changed the approach to Runway 19 from left hand to right hand to move the approach away from the mountains.
Another safety project was to relocate the terminal/FBO building which was too close to the taxiways, and replace the building as it was very dated and unsafe as a terminal. Airport security was addressed by improved fencing surrounding the airport.
Later safety improvements listed the eventual runway redesign, including relocation, widening, and lengthening.
Over the past several years, many safety issues have been addressed. Now the state is addressing the safety on the runway itself.
All aircraft require a minimum takeoff distance to become safely airborne, and a further distance to safely clear ground obstructions, such as trees, which grow taller and become a greater obstruction. Trees on state-owned land can be cut/pruned with ease. However, trees on private lands require the state to obtain owner permission to cut/prune. When that permission is not obtained, those same trees become a greater hazard over time.
Middlebury airport is lucky as there is enough state-owned land to help alleviate some obstruction problems. While only 2,500 feet is currently paved runway, over 4,000 feet of runway area exists, remnants of the 1952 runway once used by DC-3s. Pilots currently use this cleared, mowed, maintained unpaved runway during summer hot weather when the added distance allows them to take off safely. That unpaved portion, however, requires that they use more throttle and engine power to overcome the rolling resistance on rough ground and grass.
The current plan is to move the paved runway south end to the north by as much as 240 feet, giving a larger safety zone on the south end and moving it further from obstructions. It would also extend the paved runway to the north 700 feet, moving the runway north end, extending the current paved runway to 3,200 feet, giving aircraft currently using the airport a greater safety margin for taking off in either direction. It would also leave a safety zone to the north. Aircraft taking off would be able to take advantage of the larger runway to get airborne safely in either direction.
Anyone in the Middlebury area who has traveled on Route 30 between Middlebury and Cornwall since the state AOT recently widened that road can attest that a wider shoulder travel area is a safer one. Just leave Route 30 and travel to Shoreham on Route 74 if you want to know what a narrow roadway with no shoulder is like.
The same holds true for aircraft landing at Middlebury airport. Widening the runway by 10 feet is like adding shoulder and is just common sense as it just adds a margin of safety for anyone landing on the runway.
The plans presented are all about safety at Middlebury airport.