05/07/04 — Runway work to await comment by Air Force

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Runway work to await comment by Air Force

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 7, 2004 1:59 PM


This story states that the Mount Olive Airport is a visual-flight-rules airport only. Actually, the airport has had an instrument approach for many years that guides pilots as low as 500 feet.

The Wayne County Trans-portation Committee is concerned that the airport will seek a precision approach system, which during bad weather would help pilots get down to 200 feet of the landing strip. That equipment would potentially interfere with Seymour Johnson's air traffic, the Wayne committee said.

The Mount Olive Airport Committee says it does not intend to seek such a system.

Local officials are seeking reassurance that a proposed extension of Mount Olive Airport's runway will not interfere with air traffic from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The Wayne County Transportation Committee, which includes city, county and business officials, reviewed the airport's expansion plans Thursday during its regular meeting, held at Wilber's Barbecue.

The airport authority was seeking the committee's endorsement, but committee members decided they needed to hear from Air Force officials.

"With all the concerns around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, I wouldn't feel comfortable with this unless the base specifically says it's OK," Goldsboro Councilman Chuck Allen said.

The airport authority wants to lengthen the runway from 3,700 feet to 5,000 feet, former chairman Ray McDonald Jr. told the committee.

The project is based mainly on safety concerns, he said. Many aircraft insurance policies will not allow landings on runways less than 5,000 feet. The Federal Aviation Administration has been encouraging airports to meet that standard.

But committee members worried that increased air traffic at the Mount Olive Airport might cause conflict with the base.

One concern has been that the airport authority will want to install equipment to allow pilots to land in bad weather. The airport currently operates under visual flight rules, meaning planes can only take off and land during good weather when pilots can see the horizon and objects on the ground. Typically, pilots typically cannot fly if the cloud ceiling is less than 1,000 feet and visibility is less than three miles.

Conversion to an instrument flight rules airport would require the installation of an instrument landing system. Some committee members worry that the instrument-landing equipment could somehow interfere with Seymour Johnson's communications system.

The base will be going through its Base Reduction and Realignment review next year, Goldsboro Mayor Al King noted. "We've been working like beavers to make sure that we don't do anything to send up a red flag."

But McDonald assured the committee that the airport authority is not pursuing a change to an instrument-landing airport. Anyway, many airports are now offering landing systems that use the global positioning system instead, he said.

"We certainly don't want to do anything that would adversely affect the base," he said.

The committee decided to seek more information. It won't meet again until September.