A runway extension and other improvements around the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport took a key step forward this month when the Federal Aviation Administration approved a long-range plan for the 527-acre site.
However, any development will likely be years away.
Terry Slaybaugh, director of aviation for the city of Dayton, which runs the airport, said the FAA approval was critical “regardless of how quickly we progress with the major elements of the plan.”
The aviation hub has supplied hundreds of jobs and helped fuel a growing business corridor south of Dayton.
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The airport is at the intersection of Ohio 741 and Austin Boulevard. It is responsible for about 320 jobs, an annual payroll of $10.7 million and a yearly economic output of nearly $36 million, according to an Ohio Department of Transportation study.
About $6 million in new construction has occurred there with a pair of projects in the past two years. The city of Dayton spent about $1 million last year in completing what officials said was the first new aircraft hangar at the airport in decades. Another $5 million was invested with the hangar The Connor Group recently built next to its headquarters.
The airport is across from Austin Landing — the 142-acre mixed-use retail development anchoring an I-75 interchange that’s attracted thousands of jobs since opening nearly a decade ago — and south of the Dayton Mall, with major Miami Twp. employers PNC Mortgage, LexisNexis and MetLife in between.
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The airport’s long-range plan calls for a 500-foot extension of its 5,000-foot runway. That may require a realignment of part of Austin Boulevard to the north, according to Slaybaugh.
Because of Austin’s location and FAA requirements for a runway protection zone, only 4,500 feet of the airport’s current ground path is used, officials have said.
Most models of aircraft that use the facility require a runway more than 5,000 feet long when fully loaded on a hot summer afternoon, described as the “most demanding” conditions, according to Passero Associates, the engineering firm that worked on DWB’s long-range plan.
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The airport is now permitted for knot speeds that translate to a range of about 104-140 miles per hour. With the runway extension, the classification change would increase the range to roughly 140-162 miles per hour, airport officials have said.
A realigning of Austin would be eligible for federal funding, Slaybaugh has said. Approval of the airport’s long-range plan “is not considered a commitment of federal funding for the proposed development,” according to a letter from the FAA.
Among other alternatives, Slaybaugh said: rerouting a portion of Austin to run beneath the runway extension, or installing a “resting system” at the runway’s end.
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Before deciding on which option is best, an environmental impact study is required. A team for the study may be in place by the end of the year with a target of starting the study in the first half of 2019, Slaybaugh said.
The study itself, he said, could take a few years.
“We’ll go through all of the impacts of the different options we have for eliminating the road as an obstruction and then we’ll pick one of them and try to get everyone to agree it’s the best way to go,” he said. “And that could take a while.”
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