Reporter: Sarah Bloom l Videographer: Nick King
Danville, VA - Opposition is strong on the Southside to a proposal that would bring big changes to the Danville airport. It's a runway reconstruction project that some fear could devastate Danville's economic progress. One that might not be optional.
The Federal Aviation Association says Danville needs to standardize its runway, and they'll pick up the cost. But, that's not the cost officials and aviators are so worried about.It's the economic cost-- to the airport, to the student pilots using the school, and to this entire community.
"The people that make big decisions, are bringing big jobs and big payrolls come to town on jets," said Richard Bailey, a Flight Instructor at General Aviation Corporation.
But a multi-million dollar FAA project, meant to fix drainage areas, straighten this runway, and level the surrounding areas, could prevent those jets from coming. Maybe temporarily, possibly even for the foreseeable future.
"Economically, that we're not going to be able to support the city's and the regional economic development efforts," said Marc Adelman, Danville Regional Airport's Transportation Services Director. "When prospective clients are seeking to come to Danville, they won't be able to fly into Danville."
Because, to update the 60 year old runway, the FAA wants to reduce its size. And they may have to close parts at time for construction. Both, problems for regular jet traffic, like the Civil Air Patrol.
"It's going to impact the ability for me to move my aircraft in and out of this facility to get the maintenance," said Lt. Col. Eugene "Gene" Jackson, Director of operations for the Virginia wing of the Civil Air Patrol. "That's going to directly impact Homeland Security Missions, it's going to directly impact counter-drug missions, and search and rescue missions involved in the entire eastern seaboard."
It has local flight instructors concerned too.
"I'm very reluctant to turn students loose on their first opportunities to fly on runways that aren't sufficient lengths to meet what I consider normal safety requirements," said Bailey.
"They're trying to destroy what I think is the crown jewel of the community," said Cooper Mathieson.
About five years ago the FAA asked the city to buy property on the North end of the runway, or risk having the runway shortened. The city spent about $5 million to do so. Now, the FAA is saying reduce the length of the runway.
City council is asking for Congressional support to see if the FAA will make some modifications to their plan. Of course, all of this is a very long term project, one that could take years to begin and years to complete.