If local pilots and AOPA have their way, there will be a new crosswind runway at Martinsburg's Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB). State and military officials have agreed in principle that the runway will eventually be replaced after the current crosswind Runway 17/35 is closed to accommodate expansion of the West Virginia Air National Guard base.
Last week the U.S. Air Force formalized its decision to convert the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard from the C-130 Hercules to the C-5 Galaxy, the military's largest aircraft. That means upgrades to Runway 8/26, more jobs on the base, and a long future for the West Virginia Air National Guard and MRB.
It also means that the Air National Guard's ramp has to be expanded considerably to accommodate the giant aircraft, closing MRB's current crosswind Runway 17/35. But AOPA has lobbied hard for a replacement.
"Martinsburg is big enough to accommodate both the Air National Guard and general aviation, and an alternative crosswind runway can be built to replace 17/35," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional affairs.
AOPA has been active in the issue since 2002. The association opposed proposals to close 17/35 and pushed for a new wind study to determine if there would be adequate coverage with just one runway. The FAA determined that one runway would meet technical requirements, but the agency also discovered that 17/35 accounts for some 20 percent of total operations. For that reason, AOPA was adamant that a replacement crosswind runway be part of the planning for changes to the airport.
Because of AOPA's advocacy, the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, the West Virginia Air National Guard, the state adjutant general, and the West Virginia governor's office have committed to building a replacement runway.
Earlier this year, AOPA legislative affairs staff met with members of the West Virginia congressional delegation to obtain support for funding to build a new north-south runway.
The Air National Guard is now securing contractors for construction. There isn't a firm date yet for the closure of the existing crosswind runway, but it is expected within the month.
September 9, 2004