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Posted on Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Turbulent ride continues for proposed runway expansion at Ann Arbor airport

By Amy Biolchini


The runway at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport in Pittsfield Township, as seen Wednesday morning from the southwest. Lohr Road is the western border of the airport and is in the middle of the photo. The Stonebridge subdivision is in the foreground.

Melanie Maxwell |

Pittsfield Township continues to fight for a say in a long-discussed lengthening of the main runway at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport that its authorities are claiming is necessary for safety upgrades.

The airport is located southwest of the South State and Ellsworth intersection in Pittsfield Township -- a burgeoning corridor that's seen major development in the past 25 years.

Plans to shift the 3,505-foot-long runway 950 feet further to the southwest corner of the city-owned airport property would not go before the township’s planning commission, leaving the township out of the discussion. The airport property had been annexed by the city of Ann Arbor before Pittsfield became a chartered township in 1972.

In response, Pittsfield Township and a citizen group have petitioned the federal government to block the expansion of the runway and to mandate the city of Ann Arbor to include the township in the planning process.

Though the idea was first floated before the Ann Arbor City Council in 2007, progress has been slow as formal guidance on the environmental assessment from the Federal Aviation Administration and final approval from the Michigan Department of Transportation have not yet been turned around.

However, even when airport authorities receive the final rubber stamp on the environmental assessment from the state, they may find it difficult to get the expansion plans past the Ann Arbor City Council.

The airport

The Ann Arbor Municipal Airport is a class B-II airport and was built in 1928. Though there have been different iterations of the runway, the most recent configuration of a 3,505-foot-long, 75-foot-wide paved runway has been in use for the past 40 to 50 years.


The airport's main runway, pictured here Wednesday, as seen from the northeast corner. The control tower is located in the cluster of buildings in the middle of the photo.

Melanie Maxwell |

A separate grass runway at the airport that intersects the paved one and is used during the summertime. There are about 160 hangars in use at the airport and about half a dozen vacancies.

The airport had 64,000 takeoffs and landings in 2012. Before Sept. 11, 2001, the airport had about 125,000 takeoffs and landings per year.

Small corporate and private planes are housed at the general aviation airport, which does not have any scheduled passenger or cargo service. A number of planes transporting patients destined for care at the University of Michigan Health System also frequent the airport.

UMHS keeps its Survival Flight helicopters at the airport, though it's not able to house its Survival Flight jet there because of the short runway and the lack of 24-hour control tower staff, said Kara Gavin, spokeswoman for UMHS.

Three rental car agencies are situated at the airport, as well as several flight schools. It’s four miles -- or an 11-minute drive -- from downtown Ann Arbor.

The airport has an $800,000 annual budget and runs on the profits it makes from renting hangars and from a small fuel surcharge, requiring no funding allocation from the city. It is staffed by a handful of city employees who conduct maintenance operations and clear the runway. Matt Kulhanek, the city's airport manager, is the only administrator at the airport and does that job in addition to other duties he has with the city.

Pittsfield Township provides police and fire coverage to the airport when necessary. The FAA funds the 20-person control tower staff.

The expansion

“In 2007 we were updating our airport layout plan and council inquired and asked if we had addressed everything from a safety perspective,” Kulhanek said.

In the airport’s opinion, the layout didn’t address certain safety issues, and so they asked for an extension of the runway to 4,300 feet. The extension is in line with the state’s master plan for the Ann Arbor airport, Kulhanek said.

Kulhanek said there’s a blind spot on the runway at the northeast end where the control tower can’t see the plans in the taxi lanes waiting to take off.

The proposed project would extend the runway 950 feet on the southern end and take 150 feet off of the northern end, for an overall extension of 800 feet. The shift would eliminate the blind spot for the control tower, Kulhanek said, and still be half a mile from Lohr Road.

Planes landing on the runway have run off the end of the pavement into the dirt, Kulhanek said. Though no severe injuries of pilot or crew have resulted, the potential for major damage is there. Extending the runway would reduce that risk, Kulhanek said.

The extension to a 4,300-long-runway would still keep the Ann Arbor airport as a class B-II airport, Kulhanek said.

Some aircraft that use the runway now have to operate under restrictions in order to take off on the short runway, including taking off with less fuel and/or less passengers. Several C-I aircraft already make use of the runway, but operate under like restrictions, Kulhanek said.

The extension of the runway would mean B-II aircraft could operate without restrictions, Kulhanek said.

“We’re not going to see (C-I aircraft) on a regular basis,” Kulhanek said. “800 feet is almost nothing; 4,300 is still a relatively short runway for a jet.”

A longer runway would make the area accessible to more small corporate jets, which often have insurance contingencies for how long a runway has to be in order to land a plane there, Kulhanek said.


The area of the runway at the airport that would be extended 950 feet towards Lohr Road as a part of the expansion.

Melanie Maxwell |

Some corporate pilots stipulate that a margin of 20 percent of a runway beyond what is needed to safely land a plan is necessary. Kulhanek said the Ann Arbor airport’s 3,505-foot-long runway is not long enough for some planes that need that margin, and so they land elsewhere.

Kulhanek said the airport is not equipped with instrument landing systems that some corporate jets need to land and take off.

Not expanding the runway is a bad business decision, said Dr. Don Musinski, flight instructor for Solo Aviation. The company is located at the Ann Arbor airport.

The airport is losing some corporate business because of the delayed runway expansion, Musinski said. The loss of revenue doesn’t hurt the city, but it hurts the airport, Musinski said.

The shift of the runway to the southwest corner of the airport property is also important for future plans Pittsfield Township has to expand State Road south of the intersection with Ellsworth Road. The widening of the road from two lanes to four lanes is not possible with the airport's runway where it is now, Kulhanek said.

The city of Ann Arbor owns the mostly vacant wetland property on the east side of State Road across from the airport because of landing lights needed for the runway.

For the project to move forward, an environmental assessment of the airport was conducted between 2009 and 2010, and it was submitted to the FAA for comment in the fall of 2010. Airport authorities did not receive the report back until 11 months later in the fall of 2011, Kulhanek said.

In the spring of 2012, Kulhanek learned that another department in the FAA had to additionally review the environmental assessment -- which was submitted to them in September 2012. Airport authorities are waiting for the final approval of the environmental assessment from the state before approaching the Ann Arbor City Council with plans and requesting funding.

As structured now, the runway expansion would cost about $1.9 million and be paid for with ticket surcharge fees, Kulhanek said. The state would be responsible for $96,000 of the cost and the city would be responsible for $96,000. The remainder and largest portion would be paid for with federal funds.

The city has already approved about $400,000 for the environmental assessment. The most recent payment was approved in August.

The local match for the money in both the environmental assessment and for the proposed project comes from fees on tickets, Kulhanek said.

Pittsfield's petition

The Ann Arbor Municipal Airport is surrounded by commercial properties to the north, a wetland to the east, an office park and subdivision to the south and another residential subdivision to the west.

Pittsfield Township resident Andy McGill has lived in the Stonebridge subdivision that’s adjacent to the airport off of Lohr Road for the past seven years. He’s now the voice of the citizen group made up of about 400 residents from Pittsfield and Lodi townships, as well as Saline and Ann Arbor.

McGill said he was told when he moved into his house that the airport would never expand.

He’s concerned about the possibility of larger, heavier jets landing at the airport with a longer runway, and the possibility that planes would come even closer to the subdivision on Lohr Road when they take off and land.

There are environmental concerns at the airport as well that were noted in the petition, McGill said. Several wells at the airport provide Ann Arbor’s Water Treatment Plant with about 15 percent of its overall supply, and McGill said he thinks more study needs to be done on the location and safety of the wells from jet fuel spills.

“It’s our view that the rights of the people of Pittsfield have really been overlooked in this case,” McGill said. “We love the airport as a small airport; we just don’t think it should become a bigger airport that’s attractive to larger, heavier jets.”

Pittsfield Township and the citizen group, the Committee for Preserving Community Quality, have hired a lawyer that specializes in airport issues.

Steven Taber of Taber Law Group PC in California wrote the petition to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and is representing the township and the citizen group in the case.

Should the U.S. Transportation Secretary not responds to requests made in the petition, Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said the township will continue to hold its position and exhaust its options.

The petition requests that the federal government makes a response within 180 days from the Jan. 28 filing.

“We’ll hold our position that we’ve held previously,” Grewal said.

The township and the city signed an agreement in 2009 that pertained to new buildings at the airport, but it did not give the township the authority it wants in this situation, Grewal said.

Ann Arbor's position

The city of Ann Arbor has no plans to significantly change operations at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport, officials said.

“I don’t think City Council has any interest in expanding the runway,” Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said.

Hieftje said a similar expansion proposal was introduced to City Council in the 1980s and it was not supported.

“The big fear is that larger planes would come in,” Hieftje said. “(The Ann Arbor airport) is a nice little airport. It’s a nice, little, fairly busy airport for a city our size. … There’s underutilized capacity a few miles away in Willow Run.”

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Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

Let's face it, Ann Arbor airport is part of a network of airports that is an important part of our county's transportation system. As a pilot, I would like to see the runway lengthened for the sake of safety and increased utility. One valid argument against the airport would be the federal budget deficit, maybe we just can't afford it.....


Tue, Feb 12, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

I understand you want to protect small airports, but your rationale would only be reasonable if there wasn't any airports near ann arbor for hundreds of miles. There is a underutilized airport less than 12 miles from Ann Arbor airport called Willow Run. This is from their website: "What we offer you: Four runways, including an ILS all-weather runway and cross wind runways 24-hour aircraft rescue fire fighting facilities On-site weather bureau service Tower Operations: 24-hour FAA tower operations; no restrictions non-directional beacon, instrument landing system VHF omni-directional range and GPS Snow removal 24-hour US Customs service FAA Flight Standards District Office Flight instruction Newly upgraded runways and taxiways Low Fees - With the most attractive landing fees in the region, Willow Run makes good economic sense Your other point: "as a pilot I would like to see the runway lengthened"... as a pilot you will also note that moving the runway 950ft to the SW puts an arriving jet with 100 feet of homes. As a pilot I also assume you want to avoid being consumed in a fireball after striking a suburban town-home. Just food for thought. The federal budget argument is clear: why waste money we don't have on expanding an airport we don't need. This is above and beyond the $400,000+ the city council have wasted moving this project forward.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 8 p.m.

SalineD. You said: >Shifting the runway 950 feet SW shifts the 3 degree glideslpe touchdown point thereby lowering the path of an arriving jet to about 100 feet . Minimum safe altitudes: Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes: a Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface. b. Over congested areas. altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.< 1000 feet is what the FAA considers safe . The only reason ARB can operate, is the exception for takeoff and landing. 94' however is stretching the exception to the limit of common sense.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

Skyjockey43. You seem to know your Citation X. Isn't that the jet AvFuel flies in/out of ARB ? A jet requiring the existing runway length for landing...but (ouch) just does not have enough runway for max takeoff weight. For a company which got a decade worth of tax relief from Pittsfield Township... you need longer runway to keep you happy ? You do realize PT residents pay for your tax relief as well the the FIRE and RESCUE station which actually is required to keep the airport's door open. Don't you ? Now back to your gun debate... So how many rounds you need to kill Bambi ? 30 ? ;-)


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

SkyjockeyMan.....Shifting the runway 950 feet SW shifts the 3 degree glideslpe touchdown point thereby lowering the path of an arriving jet to about 100 feet above the homes on Lohr. Same goes for any takeoffs...the climbout angle over Lohr will make the planes that much lower over the homes and thereby.....making their profile noise exponentially louder. Common sense. The proponents are the ones who advocated safety as the reason for runway expansion. The opponents debunked that argument to smitherines. But it also a fact that a corporate/personal jet will create a much larger crash fireball than a Cessna 172. Again common sense.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Actually SalineDion, both you and AL have failed to address the points in my post. The two arguments I'm hearing most from the anti expansion crowd are safety and noise. I Just showed you that expanding the airport will not make it any less safe than driving your car into work everyday. I also showed you that with increased jet traffic it will not be any more noise than there is today. Since neither of you make any attempt to refute these points, I suppose I can assume you're in agreement? Or is it that the safety and/or noise issue are just red herrings?


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

This ridiculous post just reinforces my position regarding ignorance based arguments. A Citation X has never landed at ARB nor will it even WITH a runway expansion. And to answer your silly Bambi question - I don't need any rounds to kill Bambi because I am not a hunter. But for protecting myself and my family from armed intruders, I need as many rounds as possible to do the job. Not too long ago a woman was able to protect her children from an armed intruder shooting him six times, emptying her revolver. He was able to get up and walk out of the house.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Ouch! Al you just sent Skyjockey43 to the showers to clean his shorts. Perhaps the AvFuel jet owner and his rich pals are the reason behind the politics of this expansion nonsense. Perhaps a FOIA request to see emails and phone records between the airport manager, AvFuel, and the supporters in City Hall (throw in Dave Brandon's office too ) will result in some interesting results. Are you going to do that Amy?


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

The arguments against airport expansion are very similar to those voiced by the anti assault weapons crowd and are based on total ignorance. As far as safety is concerned, you have a far greater chance of a car losing control and crashing into your house than an airplane falling out of the sky. Additionally the vast majority of runway accidents at general aviation airports this size are caused by small piston powered training aircraft which fly all day, every day at ARB. Extending the runway will not change this fact. Also small training aircraft generate MORE noise than business jets. According to FAA data, the noise level at take off for a Cessna 172 (one of the most popular small piston powered aircraft) is 74.2dBA. The takeoff noise level for a Citation X (one of the longest range business jets in production and requires 5,280 feet of runway) is 72.3 dBA Please back up your arguments with facts before you start flying your NIMBY flag And because I'm sure someone will start screaming about showing proof of this data:

Pamela Bethune

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

The widening of State street should be part of this discussion. As the article states, this cannot happen without the change and it needs to happen.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 10:04 a.m.

A2Greatful , ECitizen and Linda. There is a purpose for different size airports. We are lucky enough to have small (ARB), big (YIP) and bigger(DTW) in our area, yet in perfect distances to MAINTAIN our QUALITY of LIFE. We MUST keep it this way. If you have any doubt as to what happens when an airport expands, just look at areas surrounding the 'bigger' and 'big' airport. There is no problem with ARB but the delusion of grandeur and the (false) belief that bigger is better of few 'behind the scenes' special inserts groups. David Cahill. Ya...I have to admit that after visiting the AirZoo in Kalmazoo, (Highly recommended for all of you airplane lovers and kids owners !) I am starting to wonder if a similar creation here will not serve more of the community better most of the time...Vs what we have here today for 130 aircraft owners. SalineD. Indeed. The longer the runway, the more weight they can carry (Read: fuel) the larger the fireball. As pilots we both know that if we mess up, WE will pay the price. Residents on the ground however, did not sign up for this program. When we debate SAFETY. It is the SAFETY of the people on the ground we should be talking about. Once folks understand that with longer runway and heavier aircraft the safety (margin for error for pilots) will remain the same, they will see through the silliness of the "safety" smoke screen. As you say, it is the larger aircraft, folks on the ground should be concerned with. Which brings me back to my opening point; we are lucky enough to have a 'big' and 'bigger' airports, right next door. Lets keep ARB AS IS.

Linda Peck

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

I agree with A2grateful. I am not opposed to the airport as it is, but an expansion is bad for the neighborhood. There are two perfectly good airports nearby, this one does not need to expand. If we become like every other city that experienced growth and succumbed to such follies are city airports, we will become like every other city. Do we want to do that?


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

A small airport benefits the City of Ann Arbor by keeping the flight paths of Willow Run and Metro out of our airspace. I am not against the airport, just its expansion.

David Cahill

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

So, we close the airport and see who sues whom for what. Let the people in the black robes sort it out. They may not be impressed with the "lock-in" theory that keeps the citizens perpetually in thrall to a small self-serving interest group.


Mon, Feb 11, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

A small, self serving interest group....hmmm, can't let this one go by. You mean like the special interest group that insists on silence at the cost of the utility of our airport, right?

Basic Bob

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

Close the dog parks, too. Don't expect the federal black robes to side with you on this one. We did take their money, and all that they ask is to continue to operate. At a profit, no less.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

I say we close the golf course.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

Ecitizen... There is no injustice! No one force the people of Stonebridge and the surrounding communities to purchase those homes. No one hid the airport behind a curtain during the transaction. They simply made an embarrassing decision… And one of their own Stonebridge neighbors has already crashed into the neighborhood. Couple of years ago some guy ran out of fuel and landed on one of the fairways. Think he was a doctor or dentist…and they are never wrong!


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

@David Cahill whose opinion is: The airport should be closed and the land sold off, so that it can have some beneficial use. The pilots and hobbyists and their ilk have been lobbying for expansion for at least the past 40 years. The best way to deal with this "interest group piracy" is to be done with the airport once and for all. Please get Sabra to brief you on just what the city's obligations are to FAA with recent improvements to the airport...never mind, I will do it. With each airport improvement funded by FAA, the "clock" or obligation to keep the airport open gets pushed out 20 years. So, there were improvements in the past five years that will obligate A2 to keep the airport open for at least 15 more years. The alternative is to pay back the money that FAA spent on the airport This is not a hobby airport for "interest group piracy." Check with your wife to see that the airport pays its own way (and then some) and also check with her on the number of jobs that are created by all of the employees who work for the two FBOs (look it up please!). With all due respect, I really am astonished by your lack of information...did you post this during happy hour?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

One: If the airport runway is so unsafe why is the airport still open????? Two: Rich folks have resources to publicly make injustices known and use political and governmental systems to rectify those injustices. The real shame is that poorer people do not have the same means. An injustice is an injustice. I guess I should be sorry the neighborhood was rich enough to have resources to stop this injustice. Hmmm, when an airplane from the airport crashes into one of the roofs of the poor neighborhoods, it will be too late, just thank the self serving few who want a bigger airport runway.

David Cahill

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

The airport should be closed and the land sold off, so that it can have some beneficial use. The pilots and hobbyists and their ilk have been lobbying for expansion for at least the past 40 years. The best way to deal with this "interest group piracy" is to be done with the airport once and for all.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

Don't you love it when rich people realize that they screwed up? "What was I thinking...?!" What indeed... How could you not know there was an airport in the neighborhood? And now, because they are rich and think they are incapable of making mistakes, they want to restrict airport activities and expansion. Typical! Oh, and addition to small plains (not plans) and jets, the southeast corner of the airport also has a blimp mooring to handle the blimps (Goodyear & Fuji) that come to visit during UM Football season.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

Amy, as far as you are aware is the Ann Arbor City council worried about staying in the airport operating business; being left operating a loss making airport after accepting even more Federal money? Mr Kulhanek's admits that air traffic at Ann Arbor Airport has halved over the past decade. Do we honestly think aviation fuel is going to get cheaper and we are going to see an increase in personal jet travel? In the interests of full disclosure: who paid for's flight yesterday? It might put certain individuals mind at rest, that your weren't treated to an aerial jolly courtesy of the airport expansion proponents.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 8:10 p.m.

I can't knowledgeably answer the first question. As to the flight: paid for a sightseeing flight with Solo Aviation, a private company that operates out of the airport. The company also does pilot training. We were not treated to a courtesy ride.

no flamers!

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Many opponents of the runway expansion cite the availability of Willow Run. But far more people live under the Willow Run southwest runway than under the Ann Arbor runway. Moving air traffic to Willow Run doesn't stop the noise pollution, it just shifts it to a less affluent community. I do realize that Willow Run has long been capable of handling big jets and so there is no surprise to nearby property owners. But I'm talking about the next small jet that takes off--whether it is Ann Arbor or Willow Run, it will create noise that is unwelcome by residents.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

Willow Run already gets heavy traffic and has ruined the neighborhoods near it, after its revival as a freight/corporate jet hub. Expanded A2 would move existing traffic from there to A2, whereas not expanding A2 would not send increased traffic to WR.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

@Al "In closing, as much as I find AA hypocrisy troubling, I find the fact that the airport misled the council by failing to inform them of the HUGE weight increase per aircraft embedded in the plan they asked the council to approve under the BOGUS story of "safety". Your opinion and "spin" does not translate into FACT. There are no plans to increase the weight of aircraft using the runway...the runway is capable of bearing much larger weights by nature of its construction, but the surrounding taxiways and ramp area are still limited by weight, wheel footprint, and wingspan.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

Al, your statement about landing weight and a GV is irrelevant. Yes a GV may be able to be within the weight requirement, but so could a DC-9, that doesn't mean it could use ARB. A GV's wing would slice through the Northeast T Hangars on taxiway Alpha with its 93 foot wingspan. Even with the proposed runway extension, a GV still requires at least 5100 feet of runway to take off.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

Packman. FACT: The airport layout plan submitted for the council's approval under the fairytale story of "safety" has the weight PER AXEL of 40,000 lbs PER AXLE (!) That is 80,000 lbs for a dual axle aircraft. A far cry from what used to be the limit 12,500 lbs...and that is yet another FACT. As a point of ref: A C-172 weighs around 2500 lbs and carries about 55 Gal. of fuel A Gulfstream 5, large corporate jet weights....yup, you guessed it, 75000 max ldg and 85000 max ramp and carries around 40000 lbs of fuel. Huge difference. The G5 can and should (for its own passenger and crew safety), use Willow Run. Now, Packman you are saying "taxiways are not capable of supporting this much weight " . Coming from the same folks using a dead zone behind a hangar built at the wrong spot as a excuse to extend a runway...Do you really want us to believe that taxiways weight bearing or location will not change ? ...Just like the weight's mysterious creep fr 12,500 to 40,000/80,000 lbs ... Simply said... For the safety of tens of thousands of folks in the community, NO CHANGE TO ARB is needed. Keep the airport as is. It is that simple. If AvFuel decides to buy a larger jet...well, they can start using Willow Run as well. They have already received a multiple year tax relief from Pittsfield, I am sure they can afford the drive from Willow Run.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

From a resource perspective alone, I struggle to understand why it is necessary to spend money on the AA airport when Willow Run, which offers outstanding aircraft handling facilities, is literally next door. If the issue is the ability to handle fully loaded (fuel and passengers) aircraft, then perhaps the Willow Run airport might be better suited to them. Willow Run offers 24/7 FAA tower control, all-weather runways, instrument landing capabilities, crosswind runways, and the ability to handle aircraft of all sizes. The aircraft that want to use an expanded AA airport are very likely to require all of those things. So remind us again, why is it necessary to sink more of (our) money into the AA airport? I am not in favor of doing so when a very good solution already exists at Willow Run.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

Ecitizen. VERY well said. As seen from other posts as well, the hypocrisy of AA is astounding to say the least. What I also find interesting is that the bogus "safety" argument appears to justify expansion for a grand total of around 130 aircraft owners at ARB and an occasional guest user, yet the REAL SAFETY of tens of thousands home owners is not even mentioned ? Let me be clear. If you expand a runway it WILL allow more twin engine aircraft and jets to depart. Doing so, WILL reduce the margin of safety for tens of thousands of area residents. Why ? Because when a twin loses and engine on takeoff, it WILL CRASH more or less straight ahead. Light twins, folks will NOT climb or turn back on one engine. They WILL crash straight ahead. So...if you depart to the SW, today, there is an open field for them to use during an emergency. If however we push the runway closer to homes, that crash site will be in a residential area. (And don't bother with "the airport was here first" because in the beginning it was an uncontrolled grass strip. AA bought the land for WATER rights, NOT to run an airport.) If you need a more vivid example of what can occur (And BTW, there have been around 9 fatal crashes at the airport already !) Just take a look at other such airport with longer runways: In closing, as much as I find AA hypocrisy troubling, I find the fact that the airport misled the council by failing to inform them of the HUGE weight increase per aircraft embedded in the plan they asked the council to approve under the BOGUS story of "safety".

Are you serious?

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

Al - so what pilot ratings do you have and how many hours? I've been flying for almost 50 years, have over 10,000 hours and have flown many types of multi-engine planes and jets. Don't even know where to begin so will start with this: "Doing so, WILL reduce the margin of safety for tens of thousands of area residents. Why ? Because when a twin loses and engine on takeoff, it WILL CRASH more or less straight ahead." This is a laughably incorrect statement as ANY pilot knows. Not worthy of comment. "Light twins, folks will NOT climb or turn back on one engine. They WILL crash straight ahead." This statement is even more ridiculous. One would hope that readers here will keep in mind that many if not most people making comments here know nothing about aircraft operation. "If you need a more vivid example of what can occur (And BTW, there have been around 9 fatal crashes at the airport already !) Just take a look at other such airport with longer runways:" Al - do you even know what a Cessna 421 is? (The story speculated that was what the airplane was.) Cessna 421 have operated safely out of the Ann Arbor Airport since they were first manufactured over 45 years ago so your article has nothing to do with anything in this discussion. Sign...


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Airport expansion is an issue that will never go away. In the 70s, it was residents of Ann Arbor's fourth ward who complained about the airport. Fourth ward Council Member Ron Trowbridge, used campaign literature showing him standing at the end of the runway. The caption read "The airport stops here." There even was some serious discussion of closing the airport until it was learned that closing it would require the City to repay the federal government millions of dollars. In the 70s, airport expansion was not a problem for Pittsfield Township because the area around the airport was planned for industrial uses. But then developers persuaded the Township Board to permit residential development across the road from the airport. So now we have Stonebridge subdivision across the road from the end of airport's main runway.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4 p.m.

Nothing to do with the runway, but I was in there renting a car a couple months ago, and there was huge TV loudly blaring Fox News rants around the waiting and rental car area. I mentioned to the employee that it was 1) irritatingly loud, and 2) rather inappropriate to run such highly partisan material in a city owned, public use space. She said she disliked it too, but that the airport manager would "go ballistic" if anyone changed it. Neither the choice to play politics, nor the response of the employee say anything good about this guy's management style. City should look into it.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

"Airport authorities are waiting for the final approval of the environmental assessment from the state before approaching the Ann Arbor City Council with plans and requesting funding" It appears the state is or has conducted an environmental assessment for this proposal. Why has our city council approved over 400,000.00 dollars for an environmental assessment? I am disturbed and frustrated with City Council decisions in spending our taxpayer dollars. As far as the Airport issue, the airport has operated safely for decades with its current runway and can continue to do so. The "blind spot" issue on the runway can be solved in one day with the installation of a simple video camera. If there is safety issue with the design of the Airport then shut it down. Why spend millions taxpayer dollars for something that is not necessary? Our national debt is fast approaching 17,000,000,000,000.00 dollars and yet our government agencies including Ann Arbor City council can spend money fast enough.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Tanzor. You noticed the "blind spot" issue as ironic as well . Yup, obviously the issue can be easily fixed with a camera, but why fix it when it can be used as another (BOGUS) reason for expansion ? And if you feel like getting even more cynical the makeup of the "Citizens" Environmental Committee in the petition. What a sad joke and waste of our tax dollars.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Thanks for the updated article. The Airport has 837 acres of land. The UM installed 1800 solar panels on 2.4 acres of land. Enough to power 100 homes. The Airport is about 350 times that area or large enough to quietly solar power 35,000 homes. There are 50,000 housing units total in Ann Arbor proper. Defined as an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied. If the City is going to rip up the entire runway and rebuild why not just do it right? Like on one of their greenbelt farms nearby? With frequent corporation flyer EZ access to Dexter, Chelsea, and Saline, too? Pittsfield is happy. The pilots are happy. The Fed is happy. And Ann Arbor survives the next energy crisis. Voila ! Now where's my Tesla? And my Gulfstream G650?


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 7:12 a.m.

Great idea, actually.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

It's ironic that Ann Arbor was up in arms about a country fence that didn't meet the standards of Ann Arbor but has no problem extending a runway that doesn't meet the standards of someone else's community. The justification, of course, is that it's Ann Arbor's property to do with what it pleases, and this is Ann Arbor for God's sake. Ann Arbor homeowners, of course, don't that same right when it comes to their private property, then it's Ann Arbor's right to dictate what can and can not be done. To the manor born thinking is alive and well in 21st Century Ann Arbor.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Sounds to me from PWJT8D's comments that reporter Amy had herself an airplane ride with some airport expansion enthusiats. Maybe that is why in her article she conveniently left out the sleazy fact that the initial planning for expansion were purposely hidden from Pittsfield Township AND the public until it was conveniently too late to file a legal objection. Something is rotten here. The "We need the runway expansion for safety" arguement is bogus as every incident/accident at AA in the past 20 years has been almost exclusively either pilot error or mechanical failure in nature, having nothing to do with length of runway. If there is a 150 foot blind spot on the NE end from tower then compromise and shift the runway only 150 feet to the SW. Problem solved and there will be no objections from the surrounding community. Let's keep the Ann Arbor airport's Sleepy Hollow nature as it was intended to be. As a 30,000 hour commercial airline Captain in the business for 40 years, I can guarantee that a longer the runway will bring in bigger and noisier planes. Having a small Cessna single engine plane fly over a house at 300-400 feet as happens now is a lot better than a loud 15,000 pound corporate jet at 100 feet. There is a huge difference in the event of a crash in the size of the fireball!!! Those folks in the Georgetown and Stonebridge areas bought of built their homes knowing they were near a 3500 foot runway. That was the deal. Now they have every right to object now to an expansion that will only make some moneyed interests happy and harm a community's quality of life.

Basic Bob

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

Purposely hidden from Pittsfield Township? Impossible when they have a reserved seat on the Airport Advisory Committee. Check comments from former Ann Arbor council member Leigh Greden regarding the change in the township board in 2008. Mandy threw Stonebridge under the bus to get her road widened, now it is too little too late. Reserve your bogus and sleazy characterizations for those who truly deserve them.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Interesting bit of misinformation: "The airport property had been annexed by the city of Ann Arbor before Pittsfield became a chartered township in 1972." Actually the airport is in Pittsfield Townshiip. The City attempted to annex it, but was blocked in court.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

The entire runway was resurfaced about 13 or 14 years ago by the feds, changing from asphalt to cement, even though the existing runway was in good condition. Why then was the runway not changed, or at least proposed, if it were so necessary?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

Because everything in the world is EXACTLY the same as it was 13-14 years ago? This is the most ridiculous argument ever.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

"A longer runway would make the area accessible to more small corporate jets" That's the reason right there. Ann Arbor doesn't need to expand their airport business to cater to Snyder's corporate buddies.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

As far as Snyder's concerned, why show your hand until someone calls you? If this goes the way he wants, why take a public position on it?

Basic Bob

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

More like Dave Brandon's buddies and visiting football fans.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

"requiring no funding allocation from the city. " - except for $400,000 for an environmental assessment - $96,000 for expansion work Waste. Waste. Waste.

Jon Wax

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

"McGill said he was told when he moved into his house that the airport would never expand." who told you this? without some backup on that statement it could have been his 3 year old. need more info here. y'know... being news and all. Peace Wax


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Oops, forget to let everyone know that Pittsfield Twp and Lodi Twp have had representatives on the Ann Arbor Airport Advisory Council for decades.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

It also does not account for the fact that the Ann Arbor Airport Advisory Council is just that - advisory. It has no power over decisions regarding the expansion of the airport.

Basic Bob

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

They are non-voting members, but still detracts from the argument that there was no notice given to the townships regarding expansion plans. The former deputy supervisor represented Pittsfield was on the AAC, I would guess the new one assumed that duty.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

The Ann Arbor airport is one of about half a dozen airports in Michigan with what FAA calls a Hot Spot and is quoted below. The hot spot is an area where planes operate but cannot be seen by FAA controllers in the tower. The airport safety improvement would eliminate this potential hazard. "A hot spot is defined as a location on an airport movement area with a history of potential risk of collision or runway incursion, and where heightened attention by pilots and drivers is necessary." The traffic pattern will not be "reoriented" from a directional standpoint, but will be shifted to the SW. The improvement will not attract "larger, heavier, noiser" jets but will make the airport safer for planes already using the airport.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.

If the control tower is in the wrong place then build one in the correct place! The tower looks relatively new, so you're telling me they deliberately or stupidly built it in the wrong place?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

MDOT and the airport has disavowed that the expansion is needed for safety reasons in their response to the FAA's questions. Indeed, the FAA has consistently told the airport and MDOT that they have no problem with the position of the control tower. In any case, in order to solve the problem with the control tower, all that is needed is an extra 150 feet, not 950 feet. Big difference.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

50% of the time, there is no tower. It is closed from 8 PM to 8AM. If this were such a hazard, why is it not loudly mentioned to pilots who use the airport?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

They want to do this because they can't see a portion of the runway from the tower? Have you heard of this thing called "TV cameras"?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Seems it would be cheaper to move or raise the tower, or the building obstructing the view, rather than extend the runway.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

It's just an excuse Brad. It's like saying you need a new car because your current car has blind spots when you change lanes.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

I don't think City Council has any interest in expanding the runway," Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said. Then why have you lead the costly folly to expand the runway for the past several years? City council may not have interest, but you do mayor Hieftje. If this is incorrect, prove it: Kill the expansion plan NOW, mayor! Otherwise, continue your trademark operating mode of hubristic folly, duplicating portions of a superior resource that exists only ten minutes away at Willow Run Airport. Thank you, again, Pittsfield Township! While protecting your rights, you also protect financial interests of ordinary citizenry in the City of Ann Arbor. Why? We cannot afford a new and bigger airport. Our recent budget had an UNFUNDED costs for alternative transportation, airport improvements, and other transportation of 93%. By the way, City of Ann Arbor residents: those bigger jets will be flying over many of your neighborhoods, as well. Ask your council person for the revised flight path information resulting from the reoriented, expanded runway. Better to be surprised now, than later. You still have some time to sell your houses, knowing that the airport exists, and it is about to expand, sending loud, low, bigger jets barely over your heads.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

One study said that there were no geese in the area - have you looked lately? There are thousands of geese - I guess the Pro side has sone splanning to do as Ricky Ricardo woudl say.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

A2 Airport can not compete with the facility in Willow Run. Stop being snobs and use the Willow Run facility. You think people who live next to I-94, which is a huge # of people in A2, would not protest if it was widened by a few lanes? What is the point of putting tons of money into an airport that really serves a few leisure and business folks when there is Willow Run? Are we the headquarters of Fed Ex? Come on, our economy does not run on this airport. We would not be isolated or economically devastated if the place closed down. These Pitsfield citizens just want it to stay small so it does not threaten the quality of life of those around it. That seems like great business sense. Keep the neighborhoods around your city livable and you will have happy citizens and tax payers. Hate to break it to you but the folks around the airport pay school taxes and library taxes to A2. They work in A2. They spend their money in A2. They bring a lot more economically to A2 than the airport. They however are not important to A2. Why does a city who claims it is GREEN want to expand an airport that is really just an expensive bauble that a tiny fraction of the population can even afford to use. Just more Ann Arbor hypocrisy, shame on the City Council for not killing this years ago.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

"The airport had 64,000 takeoffs and landings in 2012. Before Sept. 11, 2001, the airport had about 125,000 takeoffs and landings per year" This is very misleading, hinting that terrorist activities had something to do with the reduction in flights. I used to fly a lot in a single engine plane, now I seldom do. Why? In the late 1990s, gas was $1 a gallon at the pump and perhaps $2 a gallon at the airport. Small Cessna and other general aviation aircraft use 100 octane low-lead fuel instead of unleaded. Now this fuel costs $well over $5 a gallon or another $35 an hour to fly on top of what it already cost, almost doubling the cost. Other factors such as most affordable small planes were made prior to 1980 and are getting more expensive to maintain, just as an older car. New planes cost close to $100,000 or more due to legal suits while planes back in the 1970s cost closer to 1/3 of that in today's dollars.

Silly Sally

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

I fly out of a flight school, I saw no real changes, since I was learning to take off and to land, not to just fly 747 in mid-flight. Even the manager mentioned fuel costs, which this article failed to mention as a very large factor in reduced flying in general aviation. True, that after 911, I cannot fly over the Big House on game day, and many of the banner towing planes are restricted, but not much changed for Americans and Europeans who want to learn to fly or who already have pilot licenses. If I were a Saudi, perhaps things are different, but I would not know.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

The Sept. 11, 2001 marker was an indicator that Matt Kulhanek, the airport's manager, used to describe how activity has changed at the airport. He said operations had decreased since that time because of increased regulations on flight schools. Additionally, fuel costs have changed since that time as well, which Kulhanek said have affected the number of planes at the airport.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

"McGill said he was told when he moved into his house that the airport would never expand." A used car salesman will also tell you the Prius your about to buy is the best car in the world. Sounds like to me Mr. McGill, you were told what you wanted to hear by a good salesman. Seems like to me at this point, the Township's argument is falling on deaf ears. Let's just hope the 180 days comes and goes. Onward with the runway improvements! Thank you for the great follow up Amy. I hope you enjoyed your flight! It was a beautiful day to fly


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

If you believe that somebody is bound by saying another property owner will NEVER do something to their property, YOU ARE DELUSIONAL. I have heard people say, they can never build there because.... and guess what, something gets built there. Times change, things change. He might havr bought a property right on Stonebridge Gold f Course., It is possible one day the golf course could close and turn into vacant land where they would build new houses. So what, too bad, so sad, get over it, OR MOVE>


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

Yes Amy, I have spent my fare share of time at the airport as a student pilot and aviation photographer.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

This is who told McGill the airport would not expand as he was contemplating building in Stonebridge: not a realltor but the then manager of the airport, administrations of Pittsfield and Ann Arbor. All cited the fact that past Ann Arbor City Councils had rejected the several previious attempts to expand and/or the Councils never put the proposals on their agendas, thus killing the expansion attempts.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Yesterday was gorgeous! Unfortunately, I was grounded because of our print deadline and so I wrote most of the story from the Solo Aviation/rental car terminal at the airport. Photographer Melanie Maxwell and our Community Engagement Specialist Kyle Mattson took the photos and video from the air that are featured in our separate interactive post. They definitely enjoyed the flight -- and I think it's going to be something we do again in the spring or summer. Are you a regular user of the airport?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

Too bad! if you buy a house near an airport, guess what?? you have to deal with airplanes! Get over it... This is a safety issue. This is not going to bring masses of larger jets, an extra 950' is not going to allow that many more aircraft types to be able to land there. It will allow current ones to carry more cargo/fuel.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

It's going to mean more small jets will use the airport, though, and that will increase noise significantly. It's mostly small jets that make things intolerable in the neighborhoods in line with the Willow Run runways. People who bought homes in Stonebridge and other neighborhoods are ok with small prop planes, but frequent traffic by any kind of jet is an entirely different matter. It's like changing a 2-lane country highway to an interstate.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

We still will have pilots who will make mistakes and over shoot runways. A longer runway will mean that bigger planes will now be pushing the limits. In a small Cessna, a pilot can land on only 1/3 of the runway.