Reopening of Tipton Airfield raises few concerns at meeting


Though the reopening of Tipton Army Airfield as a civilian airport would more than double the number of landings and takeoffs there, few people at a public briefing last night raised concerns.

That's because many of the 30 people attending the meeting at Meade Senior High School were pilots interested in having another place to fly and park their airplanes.

"I'm worried about my airport closing," said Joe Duncan, 48, a Glen Burnie resident who parks his plane at Lee Airport in Edgewater. "[Tipton] is about as close to my house as Lee is."

Other pilots came to the meeting to show their support for Tipton, which will reopen as a civilian airport on Oct. 1. The U.S. Department of Defense designated the 366-acre airport surplus property during the military's nationwide base closings and realignment in the 1980s.

Anne Arundel and Howard counties, which are sponsoring the series of public briefings, have agreed to operate the airport jointly.

"We want to show that the airport will not affect [neighboring communities] in the way of noise and environment," said Jane Gray, vice president of the Howard County Pilots Association and treasurer of the Save Tipton Coalition.

During the 90-minute briefing, a parade of officials from the two counties, the Federal Aviation Administration and Fort Meade assured the pilots and residents that the transition will be careful.

The airport will not get any subsidies from the counties, officials said. Tipton will pay for itself and will generate $25 million in revenue and create 546 jobs, according to a feasibility study by LPA Group Inc., a Philadelphia aviation consultancy.

Expansion of Tipton will also be monitored, officials said. The airport is expected to grow in the next 20 years from 57,000 landings and takeoffs but will be limited to 188,000.

There also will be no more than 300 planes based there, and the 3,000-foot runway will never be extended to accommodate commercial airliners, they said.

Officials also noted that noise should not be a factor, because the airport is surrounded by Fort Meade and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

But some residents remained skeptical.

"When are they going to match up with the runways at BWI?" asked one. When the airport consultant who conducted the feasibility study said the Tipton runway could never handle such traffic, the man replied, "You wait."

A resident of Seven Oaks, a community of about 2,000 homes four miles from Tipton, expressed concern about noise.

"Because we are so close, some of that air traffic can come out to Seven Oaks," said Zoe Draughon, head of community relations for the Seven Oaks Homeowners Association. "The noise issue is a big issue for any community."

The next public briefing will be at 7 p.m. March 28 at Meade High School. The Howard County Council will hold a public hearing at 8 p.m. Monday to discuss the development of a bi-county authority to operate Tipton.

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