Letters to the Editors
Longer runways will bring lower, louder flights
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 18, 2002
Re: Task force to examine expansion of runway, story, July 8.
I have read that elected officials of Oldsmar and Safety Harbor as well as people living in parts of Clearwater and unincorporated Pinellas County are now raising their voices about both current levels and future levels of noise generated by aircraft landing and taking off from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
Their concerns are well founded. However, there are some points that those who are promoting the plans for the runway extension are being very quiet about.
First, lengthening this primary instrument runway can be expected to result in all flights being even lower than they are now. This is because if the runway is lengthened, its touchdown and take off points will change.
Second, this is only being promoted as a way to get European charter operators to bring in tourists. What is not said is that such charter operators are likely to be operating older and noisier aircraft. If they come, they will be big and dirty jets that will not be made to comply with America's stringent noise abatement requirements. These operators will be exempt from having to use quieter engines. And they will not be answerable to our elected county officials or the airport administrator.
Third, there is no guaranteed benefit. This multimillion dollar project is being proposed without any certainty that those foreign charter operators will come here.
When the County Commission a few months ago approved the sale of airport land to the U.S. Army to build a helicopter training facility, they indicated they have deaf ears as far as the airport area residents are concerned. Just wait until the Army helicopters are taking off and landing in formation at all hours. But at least with the Army, citizens can appeal to congressional representatives when the noise becomes unbearable. It is not so with foreign charter carriers like the ones the airport administrator hopes will start landing here.
As I see it, one of the current problems is that not one of the Pinellas County commissioners lives within the air traffic patterns of this airport.
I suggest that our county commissioners apply any funds available for runway lengthening toward building a monorail to bring tourists from Tampa International to our gulf beaches. This is something we could all benefit from, while preserving our domestic tranquility and the quality of life on Tampa Bay.
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