March 2, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA Vice President for Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn recently met with local officials working to bring about the long-awaited reconfiguration of the Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport in Ohio. The airport “remains an important general aviation airport to the Cincinnati metropolitan area,” and an important focus for AOPA, he said.
The airport reconfiguration was planned in connection with the sale by the city of Cincinnati of half the airport property to the city of Blue Ash, where the airport is physically located. As a part of the land sale deal, Cincinnati was to reconfigure the airport by moving all facilities currently on the north side to the south side of the airport. A modified master plan and airport layout plan (ALP) was submitted to the FAA, along with a request for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funding to help finance the reconfiguration.
The airport’s reconfiguration and revitalization have been a long time in the making. Under the purchase contract, the city of Cincinnati was to complete the reconfiguration within five years. But in February 2010 Cincinnati requested an extension, which was granted by Blue Ash. Last month Cincinnati requested another extension, setting a new reconfiguration deadline of Aug. 21, 2012. However, Cincinnati is awaiting FAA approval of the $4 million AIP grant application that would allow it to reconfigure the airport on 98 acres it still owns. Dunn added that an FAA probe of possible airport revenue diversion by Cincinnati could be delaying the grant processing. He said that Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) has requested that the FAA expedite the resolution of any outstanding issues delaying the grant request.
Dunn met with airport manager Fred Anderton, who assured him that Cincinnati’s city administration is fully committed to the reconfiguration, and keeping the airport open as a general aviation airport. He added that recently, the mayors and city managers of the two cities met to discuss project options and timelines.
Dunn also met with Blue Ash City Manager David Waltz, who restated his city’s strong desire to see the airport stay open and functioning as a GA airport. The airport reconfiguration project, which Waltz estimated at the Jan. 13 Blue Ash City Council meeting would take nine to 12 months once approved for FAA grant funding, is to include a 130-acre park with a performing arts and conference center on the grounds. Waltz indicated that his city has set aside $2 million to assist Cincinnati in matching FAA grants.
Following his meetings with officials, Dunn attended a session at the airport with approximately 30 pilots, and briefed them on the discussions.
The recent activity is an upbeat note for an airport that long struggled against a threat of possible closure.
“While there are still challenges ahead for the reconfiguration of Blue Ash, we are making progress” said Dunn. “AOPA has been, and remains committed and very active at all levels of government to ensure the survival of this airport.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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