020617mp-Waterloo-Airport-PROGRESS-3

Workers load baggage onto an airplane at the Waterloo Regional Airport.

Dear council members,

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed closure of runway 6-24. First of all, let me give you a little education. The Waterloo Airport was built and opened for public use in May 1947. It was built with the three runways. We are the only airport in the State of Iowa with three runways, and it is truly an asset. Our airport is the finest facility of its kind in the state. Our runways are as long as any Cedar Rapids, Des Moines or that in Dubuque. None of these other facilities even comes close to the Waterloo Airport as far as capabilities for safety or the ease of landing an airplane. Our three runways are as follows: Runway 36-18, 12-30 and 6-24. Each one of these numbers represents a heading on a compass.

Now I hear of the proposal to eliminate runway 6-24. This suggestion is not only ill advised for safety reasons, it would be a detriment to our community as well as for our future economic development potential. Each one of you has said Waterloo needs more development. You all have talked about how you want the Waterloo Airport to thrive and to potentially bring more traffic here and to be utilized more. Yet I sit in Airport Commission meeting after meeting where the director of the airport has to scrape to get money from the city or anywhere to pave a parking lot, and the city seems to take the attitude the airport should be self sufficient, and yet nothing else within the city is.

You as a council will give millions of dollars to organizations or to projects that do little or nothing to bring value to the community as a whole. Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you this airport is the highway in the sky to our future. Business comes to our community by air, and when they come here the first thing they see is our airport. We should play to the strength we possess, which is the general aviation business here in Waterloo.

I know it has been said, “Well we don’t use runway 6-24 anymore.” Why? “The FAA isn’t funding the repair of the runway.” Why? “Pilots don’t use it and don’t want to use it.” I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. We as pilots use it every time we need to and every time the wind dictates that heading (060 or 240) for the safest landing possible. I have had people say, “With runway (18-36) and (12-30) we can handle most any landing.” I say to the ones that say that, it’s not their backside in the sky trying to land safely with their family or friends on board.

I would urge you not to close this runway. Whatever preserved benefit there would be from closing it would pale in comparison to the detriment it would cause our community. I would encourage you to find the funding to resurface and or maintain this infrastructure. It has been bought and paid for by the FAA many years ago and all we have to do is maintain it. It would be a disservice to our community and to the safety of our pilots to close this runway.

Joel A. Harris is a private pilot from Waterloo.

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