December 5, 2013
By Jim Moore
Pilots have banded together and launched a petition drive to save Runway 5/23 at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo., urging the city to include this crosswind option in the airport master plan now being updated.
The Joplin Airport Users Group formed after pilots caught wind of the city’s plan to close the runway, one of three at the field. The group launched an online petition and researched winds, obtaining more recent data than the FAA used in determining that Runway 5/23 is ineligible for federal funding.
The Joplin Airport Users Group noted in a recent letter to city officials that “the runway's positive and ongoing contribution to safety can hardly be overstated,” and that continuation of the wind patterns seen in recent years may well render the runway eligible for FAA funding under the agency’s formula. The group expects that will happen before the expiration of the 20-year master plan now being developed.
A recent improvement project designed to mitigate hot spots on the field gave operators a preview of the impact closing the runway could have: strong winds favored Runway 23 for about a week in October, though that runway was temporarily off limits (along with Runway 18/36) during construction. The situation grounded many training and personal flights.
The notam issued for the taxiway intersection removal designed to mitigate collision hazards listed the runway closure as “permanent,” though it was not. That notam, issued before the draft master plan was presented, caught the attention of AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer, who contacted the association’s airport advocacy staff. AOPA supports the user group’s effort, noting that preservation of the runway is likely to depend on finding a creative solution that limits the cost incurred by the community.
The city has not expressed interest in funding improvements to Runway 5/23 without FAA support, and the runway will need attention sooner than later: It is currently listed in “fair” condition.
The local pilots group hopes to gather signatures from other pilots who use the airport in support of keeping the runway open.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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