(HOST) Airports across the country have seen a dramatic increase in flights by small high performance jets. Ever since the 9-11 attacks, as wealthy travelers try to avoid long security checks at the airlines by taking private flights. But as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, if Rutland State Airport wants to continue accommodating those flights, it will need a longer runway.
(Keck) Rutland State Airport Manager Tom Trudeau says they serve about thirty-thousand takeoffs and landings a year.
(Trudeau) “What’s changed over the years is we’re getting fewer of the very light, low end aircraft and we’re getting more of the high end, high performance airplanes than we ever have before. And what we’re trying to do is move along with that change and encourage it.”
(Keck) But recent federal regulations mandate that small, hi speed jets now calculate runway distances using only a fraction of the actual runway length – thereby creating a safety or buffer zone.
(Trudeau) “So your five-thousand-foot runway now becomes three-thousand feet and three-thousand feet is not a lot of runway for a high performance jet to take off and land on.”
(Keck) Regional transportation officials have been studying the problem and Trudeau says they’ll probably need another one thousand feet of runway. Despite the high price tag – an estimated thirty-five-million dollars, Trudeau says it’s a necessary investment if the community wants a viable airport.
(Trudeau) “You either grow or you die. And I believe that if we don’t do this runway extension that at some point in the near future it’s really going to be the end of seeing high-end high performance aircraft travel in Rutland.”
(Keck) Trudeau says getting federal funding will be a challenge. But he says air traffic to Rutland has a region wide economic impact of over twenty million dollars a year. And he says private jets are a big part of that.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.