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Posted on Mon, May 24, 2010 : 11:31 a.m.

Hangar vacancies at Ann Arbor Municipal Airport nearly double from a year ago

By Ryan J. Stanton

Hangar vacancies at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport have nearly doubled in the last year, costing the city $17,449 in the first five months of this year, a new report shows.


The Ann Arbor Municipal Airport has experienced a larger number of hangar vacancies this year.

Melanie Maxwell |

More than 12 aircraft storage T-hangars have been empty most of this year.

The city lost $21,572 in revenue from vacancies in calendar year 2009, city records show.

Matt Kulhanek, manager of the city-run airport, said the leading cause of vacancies is the economy.

"When money is tight, businesses and individuals look to reduce expenses," he said. "The other impact was a couple of tenants who have multiple aircraft consolidated those aircraft from T-hangars to new box hangars."

Kulhanek said the airport's vacancy rate still is less than 10 percent, which he considers pretty good compared to other Michigan general aviation airports.

According to the city's website, the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport is home to more than 170 aircraft housed in 150 T-hangars, six new box hangars and a few other hangars owned and leased out by the airport. Tie-down spaces on the airport ramp also are available on a short-term (daily/overnight) or long-term (monthly/annual) basis.

The airport is located at the intersection of State and Ellsworth roads, just south of I-94 in Pittsfield Township.

Airport officials are in the process of planning an expansion to the airport's runway, which is intended to improve safety but also would allow more aircraft to use the airport.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sun, May 30, 2010 : 6:21 p.m.

@Packman You are so right! Yes, I think 143 feet is a crazy margin of safety. The fact that by moving the end of a runway 800ft closer to homes you will reduce it to 94ft is idiotic. Why, on earth, do you think that I would be reassured by this? Just because something is bad already, why make it worse? Indeed the fact that planes fly 143 ft over homes is probably why I didn't move directly into your flight path. However, regarding my concern for others... it is perfectly reasonable to highlight a mistake before it is made.


Sat, May 29, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

@a2doc Your quote below: "Packman", who I assume is a member of the Airport Management - "The altitude of an aircraft arriving over one of the houses on Lohr Rd Stonebridge while flying a 3 degree approach is now 143 feet. The runway offset that is proposed will decrease that altitude by only 49 feet to 94 feet." 94 FEET ABOVE HOMES CONTAINING PEOPLE, FAMILIES, CHILDREN! I can't see any other way of presenting this information without sounding disturbed and dramatic. You could just as easily say 143 FEET ABOVE HOMES CONTAINING PEOPLE, FAMILIES, CHILDREN! I can't present this any other way. But wait, that's what the altitude clearances are now and that's the way they were when Stonebridge was developed. By the way that's on the last house on Lohr the slope increases to the SW the altitudes above the houses increase.

Chris Gordon

Fri, May 28, 2010 : 3:51 p.m.

The objective of my participation in this online forum is not to discredit the special interest group or their paid consultants, but to provide additional information that encourages a more balanced discussion of the purpose and need for the proposed Ann Arbor Municipal Airport (ARB) expansion. The group of citizens concerned about the potential effects of the proposed expansion on their quality of life and the value of their personal property spent a lot of time and money researching the issues and presenting their arguments to preserve the status quo. Of course their arguments and those of the people they paid to represent them are focused on discrediting the justification for the proposed expansion and asserting the potential negative impacts. But there is more to the story. For decades airplanes flying a normal approach to land on Runway 6 at Ann Arbor Municipal Airport have crossed over Lohr Rd at an altitude of 143 feet. The medium density residential developments along Lohr Rd were conceived, built, sold and occupied with full knowledge and acceptance of any associated effects (noise and risk of accident) from these aircraft operations. Reducing this altitude by 49 feet will have no significant impact on noise or risk compared to the current situation, and asserting (with capitalized emphasis) that the proposed runway expansion would result in aircraft passing 94 feet above homes containing people, families, and children creates the false impression the effects of this expansion would be an entirely new situation, which is a self-serving dramatization. Larger, fully loaded jets is another dramatic rallying cry that fails to acknowledge that large (>12,500 lbs gross weight) jets already operate from ARB on a regular basis. Larger implies that heavier or greater size airplanes will flock to the new runway, but the weight bearing capacity of the taxiways and ramp area in addition to the length and width of the runway (4300 x 75 feet) will continue to limit the size of aircraft that can safely operate from ARB. None of the 5-8 additional jets that could utilize the extended runway are significantly larger or heavier than the Cessna 560XL that regularly operates from ARB, likely with range and payload penalties due to the current runway configuration. According to the most recently published NTSB Annual Review of U.S. General Aviation Accident Data, in 2005 non-commercial jet aircraft had a fatal accident rate of 0.11 per 100,000 flight hours. This compares to an overall general aviation rate of 1.40 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours, which would be representative of all operations from ARB. This means that larger, fully loaded jets are statistically more than 10 times safer than other types of aircraft that currently fly over Lohr Rd. When you consider this combined with the modest increase in annual operations forecast for the future (that is still well below the annual operations recorded at ARB when the Lohr Rd area was first developed) it is reasonable to conclude the proposed expansion will have no significant adverse impact on the residents living adjacent to the airport. I have read both the draft EA and the exhaustive personal comments to the draft EA submitted by the special interest group leaders, as well as the similar comments submitted by the CA law firm on behalf of the group and Pittsfield Township (lots of reading). I believe there is responsibility on both sides of the airport fence for managing the safety of residents and flight operations alike. Compromise on the proposed expansion is necessary in the interest of promoting the safety and viability of ARB as a public use facility that contributes to the economy of the entire region.


Thu, May 27, 2010 : 5:06 p.m. I found this link to a forum where an Ann Arbor flyer was desperately trying to drum up support for the airport expansion in his online pilot's community. I think it is amazing that someone would go out of their way to skew an Ann Arbor online poll by asking people distant from the local community to vote in support of expansion of Ann Arbor airport. I was both upset and pleasantly surprised by some of the comments that request received. One of his flying buddies recounts a story where a local airport "safety" expansion has encouraged the use of the airport by larger, fully loaded jets. He quite rightly states that this increases the risk of more catastrophic crashes off the airport, when jets are placed closer and lower to neighboring densely populated communities. Consider this when you read the figures quoted by "Packman", who I assume is a member of the Airport Management - "The altitude of an aircraft arriving over one of the houses on Lohr Rd Stonebridge while flying a 3 degree approach is now 143 feet. The runway offset that is proposed will decrease that altitude by only 49 feet to 94 feet." 94 FEET ABOVE HOMES CONTAINING PEOPLE, FAMILIES, CHILDREN! I can't see any other way of presenting this information without sounding disturbed and dramatic. As an aside, I have to commend Chris Gordon for his time and energy repeatedly trying to support the airport expansion and discredit the careful response by local citizens to the multiply flawed Environmental Assessment. I think the Airport should present you with some kind of medal, If such a thing exists for the Promotion of Aviation and Airport Expansion (whatever the cost). If he truly wants to gain a balanced, comprehensive view of the costs and benefits of expanding the Ann Arbor Airport I would suggest he expands his reading beyond the preliminary Environmental Assessment to include the response from the grass-roots group negatively affected by this expansion.

Chris Gordon

Wed, May 26, 2010 : 3:51 p.m.

Concerning the aviation consultants contracted by the special interest group, their apparent failure to consider the more restrictive takeoff and landing distance limitations prescribed for 14 CFR Part 135 (charter) and Part 91K (fractional) operations and their apparent belief that the nearest alternative airport was 40 miles distant in Detroit (even Detroit Metro is only 25 miles from ARB) makes me question the depth of their expertise. Their letterhead may feature a commercial airplane silhouette and they may have a symbiotic relationship with a prominent aviation law firm, but this doesnt make them experts on general aviation operations. For the $25,000+ fee paid to submit the Pittsfield Township and special interest group comments to the EA study I would expect their consultant analysis to stand up better to this level of informed public scrutiny. The consultant also claims, The number of night operations also has the strong potential to increase as the number of arrivals of the larger, longer haul business jets often occur in the evening hours due to the longer time duration of their trips. A professional analysis would likely reveal that most transient corporate aircraft arrive at ARB in the morning and depart for their home airports in the evening to allow meetings in the middle of the business day with no overnight stopover. Morning departure and afternoon return would also be the norm for ARB-based corporate aircraft. The resulting efficiency and productivity is a primary benefit of business aviation. I would further contend that many of the corporate airplanes that currently utilize ARB with range/payload penalties would actually have shorter time duration of their trips after the runway expansion because they could reach more destinations without an intermediate fuel stop. This would enable later morning and earlier evening operations than you might currently observe at ARB. Again, an expert might have addressed this through rigorous and insightful analysis rather than sweeping generalizations that support their clients conclusions. The result of the proposed runway expansion will be increased utility, safety and viability of ARB with no significant noise impact to adjacent communities as defined by the governing regulations for conduct of the EA process.


Tue, May 25, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

Dave. Remember. AA purchased the land for water rights, not to operate an airport. It has become a small monster which soon will become a revenue sucking bigger monster.


Tue, May 25, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

Polska, good point on the bonds to build hangers - have you actually been in one of the empty 12 T hangers? They are so old, if they bond has not been paid off years ago, someone wasn't minding the store... Speaking there of, Ryan left a key fact out when he tried to get headlines - the 6 addition empty T hangers this year was at least partially due to some moving into NEW Box hangers (Mentioned in story), but he failed to counter how much NEW high end revenue these new hangers are bringing in :-) More than the $150 / month the 6 T hangers would. The entire arguments around closing the airport go back to before my first flight there in 1978 and have played out in another city that closed their down town airport - Chicago... same arguments, except out of one side of his mouth the Mayor was asking Congress for money to expand O'Hare and Mid-way, and the other end of his mouth he was saying they did not need the capacity of Meigs down town. Now, they don't have a down town airport, and have lost the revenue that comes with it. Not to mention all the patients Survival Flight's partners take out of or into ARB each month - them to ride the bumpy roads to Willow Run. You might as well tell them to go to Pontiac airport and take their business with them.


Tue, May 25, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

"Airport officials are in the process of planning an expansion to the airport's runway, which is intended to improve safety but also would allow more aircraft to use the airport." 1.) The airport already has excellent safety record when it comes to runway length. 2.)The record when it comes to crashes in the vicinity of the airport, however, (Of already airborne aircraft) is not as stellar however. 1+2= Safety decline for thousands of area residents. Longer runway will allow heavier aircraft and enhanced risk in the midst of densely populated area. It makes absolutely no sense. Especially with an existing and underutilized much better Willow Run, right next door. Suggestion: Drive to and around Willow Run, see the roads and space around the airport and you will find out why expanding ARB is so ridiculous if not outright dumb.


Tue, May 25, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

The city floated debt in the form of bonds to build these hangars. Now that many are empty, someone still has to pay the interest for the bond holders. Since we know the airport is barely in the black, (if it is not already in the red...) Who will pay the bond holders once the airport is solidly in the red? Will it come out AA's general fund? (AA tax payers?)

Joe Hood

Mon, May 24, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

People build homes beneath the airport flight path, then complain about the airport? I'd feel like an idiot if I were to complain about I94 highway noise (and I'm sure we'll get two more lanes one day, that's life).


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 8:46 p.m.

Thanks, Packman, for posting exactly what I was thinking. Sounds successful, a money maker not a loss maker. Perhaps upkeep costs more than the lease revenue. I say expand it and those with bigger planes will fill up the vacancies. Move in a positive direction, not a negative one. Since there have been no safety issues, why not? If the city chooses to abandon it, I hope they turn it over to Pittsfield Twp., a happening place.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 7:37 p.m.

It's really way past time to dispel the myth that aircraft owners are a bunch of snobby rich dudes. I would like to first ask those who keep posting such dribble how many aircraft owners they actually know at ARB. Have they actually sat at an Ann Arbor Flyers meeting? Have they talked to any of the owners, or even seen the types of aircraft they fly? Sure, there are well heeled owners, but the majority are folks that love flying so much that they sacrifice many of life's usual pleasures for the sake of flying. They scrimp and save for maintenance. They have multiple ownerships in order to keep costs in line. They fly aircraft that are older than forty years. (Would you be comfortable driving a forty year old car as your primary means of transportation?) And speaking of transportation, why is it so important that the airport is singled out in terms of subsidies? Every other cotton picken mode of transportation is subsidized, and often very heavily. So the city kicks in some money every year. Is there no tangible benefit? And, A2doc, I won't pretend that if I read Gray's Anatomy, and know my way around a Physicians Desk Reference, that I can expound on the medical field and perforce put myself forward as deeply knowledgeable to the point where I can give advice to others. That is called 'book knowledge', and has little practical use in the real world. I think you have mentioned on some privious post that you used to fly. Well and good. Would you like to share with us your experience? Your ratings? The different aircraft you have flown? In short, could you illuminate the rest of us as to your credentials as an aviation expert? That photo that accompanies my username is my current ride. I'll give you a hint as to the aircraft by telling you that the engines are GTSIO-520N's. But I have flown larger aircraft as well. I've got about 2100 hours. That's my level of expeience. As an aside, I was at the airport six days ago when an ambulance pulled up to a beautiful King Air B200 that was being operated by a medical ambulance company. They loaded a seriously banged up young man on board and flew him to Sioux Falls, where he was to recuperate closer to family. I asked the pilots why they flew out of ARB instead of Willow Run. They looked at my kind of funny. 'Hey, this is by far the most convenient, nicest airport to fly out of. It's ideal for us, except when it gets too hot, and we have to then fly out of Willow Run.' I just nodded. Look, it's their choice where to fly out of. If they like ARB, so be it. They would use the airport more if a wee bit more runway was available. You guys just can't seem to get that point into your heads. If I fly with four on board with baggage, I either have to leave early in the morning, later in the afternoon, or leave fuel on the ground. No other options. If I had more runway, I would immediately load more fuel and cut out a fuel stop. And I'm not flying anything burning kerosene. Oh, well, I suppose that unless you actually have experience in these things, you just won't understand.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 6:05 p.m.

I guess the city will just have to raise their lease rates when the time comes for lease renewals. If they don't, then it falls on the taxpayers shoulders to subsidize the airport's current lease rates. I won't accept the arguement that tenants will move if charged higher rates. If they can find a cheaper airport, then they can go for it. If they can't, then they'll pay the price. If the airport can't be self supporting then city property owners shouldn't be burdened financially to provide the wealthy aircraft owners an airport.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

When I joined the wonderful world of aircraft ownership several years ago, there was a 2 year waiting list for a hangar at the airport. The headline could just have easily read "ANN ARBOR AIRPORT HAS MAINTAINED A HANGAR OCCUPANCY RATE OF MORE THAN 90% FOR MORE THAN A DECADE" Why can't you focus on the positive and present a balanced view of the airport? The Ann Arbor Airport is doing well compared to other airports in the is well maintained. It could, however, use a longer runway to improve safety for the aircraft that are based there.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 3:22 p.m.

Talk of the airport expansion is ridiculous. There are no SAFETY incidents which would have been prevented by the presence of a longer runway. In fact, if the runway is lengthened and larger jets are then qualified to land, the larger jets will have a far smaller margin for error with the expanded runway than the current traffic has using the existing runway. Safety improvement indeed! There is also no reason to assume that the airport, which has lost money for the majority of the last decade, will suddently provide a huge financial windfall for Ann Arbor. More likely, the taxpayers will continue to subsidize the airport's operations every year out of our general fund. Personally, I would rather have firefighters and police officers. As for the appeal to a business locating its operations in Ann Arbor, there are many factors that weigh more heavily on a business's decision to locate in Ann Arbor than the ten minute drive from Willow Run for its business jets.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 2:49 p.m.

@Chris Gordon I am a little unclear regarding what you are suggesting:- 1. That Williams Aviation Consultants aren't "expert"? or 2. That you would prefer them to specifically highlight the existence of a large jet capable airport within 10 miles distance of Ann Arbor Airport? Personally, I would have preferred them to hammer home point 2. Regarding the accuracy of their response I would tend to believe them over you, having not had the opportunity to examine your credentials. Regarding whether someone would like to land in Ann Arbor airport compared to Willow Run, I would suggest that is dictated by the size of plane they wanted to land. If there was a parallel runway running right up Main street I am sure you would find that very convenient too. Most reasonable people, however, would consider the prospect of large jets flying into downtown fairly dangerous. Ultimately, there has to be a balance between safety of the plane and those on the ground. The Environmental Assessment refused to address the increase in larger jet traffic such an expansion will generate. Your bold statement "with no significant impact to the adjacent medium density residential development" remains factless, as that question wasn't studied.

Chris Gordon

Mon, May 24, 2010 : 2:14 p.m.

Jet aircraft already operate at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport (ARB) within constraints of the current runway length, but suffer range and payload penalties as a result. These penalties are more severe for charter operators that must comply with operational specifications that reduce the effective length of the runway to only 60% of the current 3500 feet for their aircraft, including aircraft in the B-II small category. The supposed expert analysis by the aviation consulting firm cited above does not consider this additional restriction. As evidence a local charter operator with B-II small category aircraft recently relocated from ARB to Willow Run into a single large hangar; too bad this operator was not able to sustain their business model at the local airport and provide some additional hangar occupancy. Nor does the consulting firm cited above recognize the proximity of Willow Run to Ann Arbor, instead suggesting that, Higher powered jet aircraft may be generally discouraged from flying into Ann Arbor and would generally, with few exceptions choose to land at Detroit and drive the 40 miles to Ann Arbor. (Page 7 of 17 linked above). While Willow Run is actually closer than 40 miles, many pilots and aircraft operators already choose to accept range and payload penalties to operate from ARB instead of the much larger Wayne County facility at Willow Run. The flight time is hardly the issue, it is the ground time and land side experience that inform this decision. Anybody who doubts this conclusion please take a drive over to Willow Run and locate where you would meet a client, business partner or friend flying in for a meeting or visit. After the experience I wager you would choose the drive down State St to ARB as well. I believe the proposed expansion will enhance the safety and efficiency of all ARB operations and enhance the long term financial viability of the airport with no significant impact to the adjacent medium density residential developments.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 1:49 p.m.

Let's shut down this blighting, polluting nuisance once and for all. If the present council members fail to close it, let's replace them at the election in November.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 12:15 p.m.

This is a loss making small airport that is desperately trying to extend its runway, 950ft closer to a densely populated residential subdivision. This expansion has been justified on fictitious safety concerns, but is actually about allowing larger, fully loaded jets to use the airport. To a struggling airport that reason may seem perfectly reasonable, especially given doubling of empty hanger space. However, that reason was never presented to the Ann Arbor City Council. Instead, we have been presented with a strange, smoke and mirrors set of arguments that pretend there is zero impact to Ann Arbor residents, surrounding subdivisions and the environment. A review was recently made, by Williams Aviation Consultants, of the current proposals and flawed Environmental assessment and concluded that "All B-II small Aircraft are capable of operating out of the current runway (3,505 ft long) without the need to reduce weight by off-loading passengers, baggage or fuel". We now get to, what I think, is the real reason for this expansion - to facilitate the use by larger, fully loaded and fueled jets. The report adds, "It is the category C-I and C-II aircraft which would benefit by the runway extension to 4,300ft, not those aircraft that fall within the definition of category B-II Small Aircraft". So, if this is the real reason - lets consider it, and allow the City Council to make decisions with facts not fantasy. However, they must know that bigger jets will be encouraged to use the airport and consideration should be made of the safety and environmental impacts of that fact. The Airport managers should not hide behind the irrelevant statement, "The BII category of the airport will not change". The reason this is irrelevant..? because according to FAA rules a pilot can choose to land wherever they like, despite any existing classification of the airport. As you can see in the report, a 4300ft runway expansion is most beneficial to the CI / CII jets. The runway is already perfectly proportioned for the BII Small Aircraft. My advice if you want to land your CI classified Lear 35 in Ann Arbor, take the extra 60 seconds flight time to Willow Run, there you will find another underutilized airport with 4 runways greater than 6000ft in length which will perfectly accommodate your jet. Please read for yourself on page 5 of the report.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

BigMike, these are user fees, not tax revenues, so not a valid occasion for grinding a "city government thinks it's entitled to tax revenues" axe. This article implies that it's reasonable to expect 100% usage of hangar space at the airport, otherwise why is this news at all? That doesn't seem reasonable to me, and I question the point of the story.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, May 24, 2010 : 11:17 a.m.

@BigMike These aren't tax revenues. The money comes from lease payments from private pilots and companies that rent the spaces from the city.


Mon, May 24, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

Interesting how even journalists get accustomed to the idea that municipal governments are entitled to tax revenues. Ryan sez, "Hangar vacancies at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport have COST the city $17,449 in lost revenue so far in the first five months of this year" and "The city LOST $21,572 in revenue from the vacancies in calendar year 2009 [Emphasis added].