You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 : 8:07 p.m.

Agreement on Ann Arbor Airport expansion delayed

By Dan Meisler

Opponents of a planned expansion of the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport applauded a decision tonight by the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees to postpone a vote on a proposed agreement between the township and City of Ann Arbor over which jurisdiction is responsible for what duties at the airport.

Members of the group Committee for the Preservation of Community Quality said the agreement would have prevented them from filing a federal lawsuit at some future time. They say the agreement would retroactively approve the process the city went through in 2007 and 2008 to grant an amendment to the Airport Layout Plan calling for the runway extension.

Andy McGill, a leader of the community group, praised Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal for pulling the agreement off the township board's agenda. He also accused the city of attempting to pull one over on the township.

"What Ann Arbor is doing is one of the most devious acts of maniuplation yet," McGill said at the meeting.

Ann Arbor Chief Assistant City Attorney Abigail Elias, in an interview earlier today, said the agreement was meant to clarify a 1979 pact between the city and township, and would clarify that the city fire and construction codes would govern airport building projects.

Township code on utilities and soil erosion would be applicable, as required by state law, Elias added. The agreement also specifies that the township will receive advance notice of any future changes, she said.

The two sides are involved in a court battle over the construction of two buildings at the airport, a hangar and a building for snow removal equipment.

In a memo to Pittsfield trustees, Grewal said the agreement was meant to resolve those disputes out of court.

But after tonight's meeting, Grewal said McGill's objections over potential future lawsuits prompted her to delay action. She signed a petition against the runway expansion and said during the meeting: "I think I speak for all the trustees when I say we unanimously oppose the runway expansion."

The city is currently conducting an environmental assessment of the project, which is expected to take until the end of the year. No action will be taken until that's completed, an April press release said. Plans call for lengthening the 3,500-foot long runway by 800 feet.

McGill claimed the city's process of obtaining state and federal approvals for the runway expansion didn't meet with the Ann Arbor City Council's own requirement to notify surrounding communities. He said the city told the township 59 days after federal approval was granted, and the deadline to file objections with the Federal Aviation Administration was 60 days after approval.

In an e-mail to township trustees, McGill specifically objected to a provision in the agreement that requires the city to notify the township within 30 days of the final City Council vote. That, he said, precludes filing objections with state or federal authorities.

McGill and other residents who object to the runway expansion say it would jeopardize the safety of the airport surroundings and result in larger aircraft being able to access the airport.

The Airport Advisory Committee says the expansion would improve safety because the current the runway requires pilots to make a much steeper descent than recommended by the FAA.

The airport, at corner of State Street and Ellsworth Road, handles about 75,000 takeoffs and landings a year.

Dan Meisler is a freelance writer for



Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 5:42 p.m.

Wake up!!!The only interests served in the expansion are those with big money, serving big money. AvFuel, Flagship Air and the like do not contribute to the local economy. A few elite are served by this airport. Bigger business needs to use Willow Run. The AA airport is a private terminal for wealthy travelers to and from vacation homes and serves no community purpose in terms of providing significant jobs or commercial trade. The residents in surrounding communities built their homes after a small airport was established. It is not fair to expect these homeowners to have assummed the airport would grow because there was no place to grow it! That Ann Arbor would have decision control over voters who cannot vote officials out is a travesty. Big money will lobby and push Ann Arbor to get this done so a few can fly privately on vacation and to sporting events. Never mind the risk to residents, businesses and the quality of life in Pittsfield township. Hey, if they don't like it...they can just sell their house and move! Well, hey, if those vacationers like going up north so much maybe they should sell their homes and move!!!

Mr. Tibbs

Sat, Jun 26, 2010 : 4:59 p.m.

the idiot brigade is up and running again. the airport will never be able to accomodate larger airplanes. it will forever and always be a class delta airport. for you gullible type who actually believed the mayor and the contractors who lied to you about the airport closure, well, good luck proving that they knew, they never did the research into the clause that says if you take money from the feds to improve your airport, you MUST keep it open for 20 years. I am sorry but you were lied to, and you have every right to be angry, but you gambled and lost, those of us who've gambled and lost in other areas of "life" actually know better than to trust anyone who tells you something that isn't already on paper, and in the process "thereof" especially if you are about to layout a quarter mill.....and the rest of us are supposed to adjust our lives around YOUR mistakes? You didn't do your own homework? I am betting there are alot of people who did, and took a pass on the property. you have the right to be angry, but be angry at the right people. good luck trying to prove they didn't know. I would feel bad for you but you are still believeing lies about the airport. only these lies have the same qualities about them that you wrongly chose to believe the last time you were told lies.....they were something you wanted to hear. people like you are the reason Barnum and Bailey made so much money. Mark Twain also made some fine comments and observations of lifes little foibles at your expense. funny thing about this too, I am betting most of you also watch CNN, MSNBC, and pretty much anything but FOX news donthca? I am betting Jon Stewart brings you your news.....


Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 3:43 p.m.

JHAWKDPT. Let's face it. Yes the airport does provide few jobs. As far as it's contribution tho the economy...let's not twist reality too far. ARB was THE LAST in the state in IFR Air Taxi ops. One freighter flight out of Willow Run or one flight from overseas to DTW contributes to the economy more than a year worth of a C-150 practicing takeoffs and ladings at ARB. Lets face one more harsh fact to which even airport cheerleaders ADMIT in the FAQs: ARB will NEVER be like Willow Run. It can not. Once we all understand that ARB is NOTHING MORE than a play ground for weekend fliers, life will be easier for all involved. Once we get that simple fact through to all involved ESPECIALLY the airport manager and the "advisory cmte", once they will understand that by INCREASING RISK for thousands of nearby residents, they have created a situation that WILL backfire on all users of ARB...once they comprehend it, they should stop trying to FOOL the community and the politicians. Spare all of us in the nearby communities the hassle, and LEAVE ARB AS IS! But see...if they force ARB to take federal grant money, THEY will have job security for the next 20 years...This too is in the FAQs. See by excepting the money they will FORCE Ann Arbor to OWN the airport, "for better or worse" or "till death do them part"...Do you think Ann Arbor can afford the liability of a larger airport? There you have it.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 2:06 p.m.

I am glad there has been so much interest in the A2 Airport. It is a great place to fly into and the employees and staff are very friendly. I can very much appreciate what the surrounding communities are doing and applaud their organization and contribution to the debate. Airports notoriously create noise pollution and alter property values. However, they also provide jobs, stimulate the economy, and as they grow increase the potential for shipping commerce. Just another perspective...


Fri, Sep 11, 2009 : 11:44 p.m.

You can read the NTSB incident and accident reports here. If you're interested in Ann Arbor, simply provide that as the city name, perhaps Michigan as the state, and click Submit Query.


Thu, Sep 10, 2009 : 11:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor not only violated its long-standing agreement with Pittsfield in pursing its latest Airport Layout Plan secretly, it probably violated federal law. It also disobeyed its own Ann Arbor City Council resolution by not publicly announcing the expansion plan for 18 months, until winning state and federal approvals without any public debate. Trying to redeem such behavior by burying a complex, possibly legally redemptive paragraph in a proposed legal settlement on a related building matter was the last straw. Thankfully for the people, both the Ann Arbor City Council and Pittsfield Board of Trustees saw through this manipulative maneuver and pulled the resolution from both agendas this week. But, now, if the Ann Arbor City Council does not reject the airport expansion proposal and nullify the current ALP, opponents of the expansion will be able to use all of these examples of flagrant abuse as evidence against the city in federal court, if the expansion is approved and opponents are forced to follow that course. There are several federal judges who would not take kindly to a city abusing its power over citizens' right to know, especially citizens of another community over whom another city is exerting undo and illegal power. There is every reason to expect that the Ann Arbor ALP would be invalidated in court, the city set back to its 2006 ALP standing, and perhaps forbidden from filing a new ALP for some period of time. Depending on the judge, it is possible that the court could retain future jurisdiction in the case and require any new ALP first be approved by the court to further protect the rights of citizens surrounding the airport, because of the city's outrageous behavior, similar to what many federal courts did in desegregation and busing cases in the 1970s and 1980s. In the end, the surest way for Ann Arbor to retain control of its airport is to reject the expansion proposal and keep things as they are now.


Thu, Sep 10, 2009 : 7:55 a.m.

I agree that there seems to be something shady going on here, under the guise of an "open and objective" process. That "advisory" committee is clearly stocked with unobjective individuals. While I don't live nearby, I can sympathize. While yes, many residents bought homes next to an airport and should know about it, that doesn't justify an argument that they have no grounds to argue against an expansion. Just like the argument that, since there is already a road in front of my house and I knew it was there when I bought my house, that I shouldn't now complain if a multi-lane expressway is being proposed. Same difference.


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 10:38 p.m.

Edward and Dan ( Both Mr. McGill in his interview and HRH's post in ref to the makeup of the "Citizen Advisory Committee" raise interesting questions and provide interesting facts in regards to the shady work behind the scene of the Ann Arbor Airport. This Modus Oprandi does not give me the warm and fuzzy as an area resident. In fact I wonder if MY family's safety is even a remote consideration. As a service to our community, can you guys run an in depth investigative report about the Airport past and present? Thank you


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 10:05 p.m.

Oh...... and as for this "environmental assessment" - this seems to be yet another one sided activity, carefully orchestrated by airport management, to make sure that it goes smoothly and gets rubber stamped immediately. The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed by the City of Ann Arbor Airport Consultant JJR and the airport manager, to meet a federal statutory requirement and to complete a formal environmental assessment. The CAC was supposed to serve as a forum for community input to inform the environmental assessment. Rather, it has been a series of meetings where the packaged materials represented have been presented with little opportunity for disscussion, open dissent or community input. They are designed, developed and biased from their conception to favor airport expansion and it should be no surprise that they do. Rather than the CAC being a representative sample of the community, it will come as no surprise to many that this committee is made up of none other than: The Airport manager. The "Ann Arbor Airport Advisory Committee" Chairman. The A2 Ward 4 Resident - who just happens to be yet another "Airport Advisory Committee" member. The Ward 3 resident - who just happens to be a flight instructor at the airport. An AvFuel pilot. The FAA "Safety" person (who is really not an FAA employee but a volunteer) - is also is a Flight instructor at the airport. There are only 2 members of this CAC who have no links to A2 airport, one of whom is an NWA pilot. They have been attempting to get answers to some very good questions (e.g. What are the contingency plans in the event of an emergency on takeoff) - most of which go unanswered. The CAC are not representative "citizens" - they are predominantly airport staff. This environmental assessment will of course be rubber stamped in their favor making the whole exercise a total waste of time and tax dollars. The City of Ann Arbor seems to have been tricked into approving ARB's long term plan, but please God they have the sense to reject this ludicrous runway extension proposal and demand that the airport start considering the safety of their surrounding community.


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 9:43 p.m.

A2JD. Ahhh...same ol' MISINFORMATION and half truth: "No larger aircraft" "Airport class will remain the same" If so WHY HAS THE MAXIMUM WEIGHT in the ALP (I clicked the AAC link and there it is...)gone up to 75000 lbs? Remember, previous AA Councils had the limit set at 12500 lbs. Changing it to 75000 lbs is a HUGE game changer! Have you informed the AA Mayor and Council of the REAL story behind the extension? Have you told them that the MAIN GOAL of the extension is now EXACTLY what few of them (Mayor included) said they will NOT ALLOW: INCREASE WEIGHT? Or are you still going to try and FOOL ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME? Good luck!


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 9:25 p.m.

I have it on good authority that at least 8 larger / heavier planes could use ARB if the runway is extended to 4300 feet. A2JD is correct in that the airport classification will remain at B2 however this does not exclude bigger planes that would be (and will do so) eligible to land with the additional 800 feet. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the airport staff will do everything they can to expand with very little regard to the safety and quality of life of the surrounding community.


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 12:26 p.m.

The simple fact that decisions that affect the safety and quality of life of local residents are made by an unelected and unaccountable(airport advisory) committee, and then "rubber stamped" by first a State agency and a Federal agency, before those local residents have any idea of the plan is completely unacceptable. "...the city told the township 59 days after federal approval was granted, and the deadline to file objections with the Federal Aviation Administration was 60 days after approval." Amazing! What a manipulation. We need to bring democracy back to local people. That these decisions have been made and continue to be made by a cynical manipulation of our local government and supposed leaders is laughable. How can the Pittsfield and Ann Arbor councils allow themselves to be manipulated by a the Airport "Advisory" Committee? They are elected to make the right and fair decisions for all of our citizens not just a few cynical fat cats who are playing the politics game. City Council - please read you packets. Stop being manipulated. Look after all of your citizens, and make the right decisions.

Dan Meisler

Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 11:24 a.m.

Update and correction: The original version of this story misstated the nature of the lawsuit between the township and city. It has to do with construction of two buildings at the airport, not the proposed runway expansion. The article has been updated to correct the error.


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 9:45 a.m.

This : "The Airport Advisory Committee says the expansion would improve safety because the current the runway requires pilots to make a much steeper descent than recommended by the FAA." is one of the most ignorant comments made by the AAC. ARB glide=path is a standard 3Deg glide-path. Besides, if a runway is short, you don't make a steep approach but a more shallow one. The other comment that could top this one was the one they made insinuating that the extension will serve only aircraft departing towards Georgetown... "Nunya". You can go to FAA/NTSB sites and check ALL ARB accidents and incidents. When you do so, you will find out that not even ONE accident or incident is attributed to runway length. In fact, if you increase runway length, you WILL reduce safety margins tremendously for thousands of nearby communities and at least 3 SCHOOLS that I know of. Faster / heavier, more complex aircraft will not be able to land at someone's backyard as was the case a couple of months ago. A longer runway will allow even existing aircraft load more fuel and payload. One last tidbit of info for you: When the AAC claims "high rate of overruns" even IF one is generous enough to include a prop strike on a taxi light as an "overrun" as they do. Or even if one will be generous enough to include blatant pilot errors (Where the pilots themselves elected not to report the incidents to the FAA, for obvious reasons)...well, even if you include all of the above you will get at an incident rate of (Decimal point).0011% In other words: Totally irrelevant. What I find however, extremely pathetic is the fact that the airport in order to advance their "cause" is using incidents that should have been reported to federal agencies yet the airport failed to comply, while now it is using these very same incidents as an excuse to suck YOUR FEDERAL TAX Dollars, from the same agencies it failed to report... and BTW, by using federal grant money ARB will FORCE the city of AA to support the airport for the next 20 years...which could be one of the main reasons driving the move to expand the airport.


Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 8:54 a.m.

The aviation safety database must not be complete because there have been accidents that I can recall hearing about. Just as recent as this year a plane clipped a tree and landed on Stonebridge Golf Course after engine failure. Can Ann put a reporter on this to cite the FAA recommendations, any accidents related to runway length at ARB and compare it to other similar municipal airports? I'd like to see an objective report on this, not just stories reporting on groups opinions.

Tony Dearing

Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 7:59 a.m.

A comment was removed from this story because it violated our discussion guidelines.

Fred Posner

Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 6:57 a.m.

A quick search of Aviation-Safety net shows 0 accidents near or involving Ann Arbor Airport ( The reason for a larger runway must be to bring in larger planes. But regardless, perhaps the city should focus on fixing their bus transportation and controlling their budget before they start lowering property values outside the city limits. Because when larger planes come in... property values in the homes around the airport will decrease. I'm surprised the county hasn't weighed in on the potential loss of their income.