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Cleveland airport under closure threat

The city of Cleveland has commissioned two separate studies that will investigate the economic impact and alternative land use development opportunities for a closure and repurpose of Burke Lakefront Airport, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie.

AOPA and local stakeholders are already working to deter the city from taking actions to initiate closure of the airport, citing previous sponsor assurances to maintain the airport and the economic and community benefits for keeping it open.

Burke Lakefront Airport has been in operation since 1947, and because of its proximity to Lake Erie and the city of Cleveland the airport has a lot to offer. The airport supports flight training and private business operations as well as operations like the Cleveland Clinic, city and state law enforcement, U.S. Coast guard operations, and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

It’s important to note the airport is also grant obligated, meaning the FAA has authority over the closure decision of the airport. The federal government started investing in the airport in 1950 through the Federal Airport Act. Since 2005, the FAA Airport Improvement Project has invested $20 million into Burke Lakefront, resulting in runway safety area improvements, apron rehabilitation, aircraft rescue and firefighting equipment, and additional projects relating to airport safety and planning.

In a letter to Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Kyle Lewis expressed concern over the closure threat. “AOPA is asking the City of Cleveland to include aviation stakeholders in the process and keep the studies transparent to the taxpayers of Cleveland, and the aviation stakeholders at BKL,” said Lewis, also suggesting the city “change the focus from closing BKL to investing in the airport and supporting aviation-related development on and around the airport.”

The airport sits on the shore of Lake Erie, close to the heart of Cleveland. Visitors can walk to downtown attractions like FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Additionally, the airport hosts the Cleveland National Air Show—a Labor Day weekend event that is one of the oldest air exhibitions in the country, bringing in 50,000 people and approximately $7 million in economic impact annually.

“Burke Lakefront is an airport that the aviation community cannot afford to lose. The airport has a significant impact to the citizens of Cleveland and is a unique destination for aviators," Lewis said. There is potential for the city to invest in STEM education, right on the airport property. The Mayor's plan is short-sighted and we hope to change the conversation.”

The first study is currently underway, with the second out for contract. AOPA will continue to plan meetings with the city’s administration, bringing concerns to the table alongside other aeronautical stakeholders, aviation interests, and Ohio aviators.

Lillian Geil

Digital Media Assistant Editor
Digital Media Assistant Editor Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.

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