Reason for caution with airport expansion [Editorial]

If you move in next to a busy airport, don't complain about the noise, or so goes the standard logic.

Move in next to an airstrip in a farming community that's not particularly busy, and there could well be good reasons for complaining, if plans are in the works for turning it into a busy airport.

More than a decade ago, plans to dramatically increase air traffic at the Harford Airpark at Aldino prompted a community outcry. That expansion plan has long since gone by the wayside, but that doesn't mean it's forgotten.

More recently, the owners of the airport at Aldino have proposed another expansion, one that as been estimated by the Maryland Aviation Administration to bring as many as 60,000 flights a year to the facility. That amounts to an average of more than 164 a day. This number seems as though it could be little more than a guess; the lawyer for the airport said recently it's hard to get a handle on the number of flights at Harford Airpark because it has no control tower.

Lately, the owners of the airport have been buying land and airspace around the existing facility, which has been in operation for decades and serves mostly a clientele of recreational aircraft operators, with a goal in mind of modernization. The plan as presented is to convert three runways at the airport into a single longer runway, replace hangars and, possibly, upgrade the flood-prone management building.

Without the 60,000 flights a year statistic proffered by the Maryland Aviation Administration, the changes sound rather modest and reasonable. Moreover, the move by the owners group to purchase land and airspace to facilitate the changes appears to indicate a desire to have a measure of insulation between the airport and people who live near it.

The airport is a business, and it stands to reason if it is to remain viable, it will need to modernize and possibly expand.

Airports are, however, substantially regulated businesses because their impact has the potential to be fairly substantial. If the owners of the airport are able to provide solid information that the planned changes at Aldino won't be onerous to the people living nearby, then it'll be reasonable for those changes to be approved. If they can't, maybe it should be back to the drawing board for the expansionists.

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