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What you need to know for 04/26/2017

Saratoga County Airport plan on agenda

Saratoga County Airport plan on agenda

Saratoga County officials will begin developing a new master plan for the county airport on Geyser R

Saratoga County officials will begin developing a new master plan for the county airport on Geyser Road.

The Board of Supervisors later this month will consider hiring airport consulting engineers McFarland-Johnson of Saratoga Springs for $361,375 to conduct what could be a two-year study, looking at how the use of the airport may change over the next 20 years.

The study will lead to the first update to the airport’s master plan in more than a decade. Having a plan is generally a requirement for the airport receiving future capital improvement funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The 300-acre county-owned airport is a general aviation facility without scheduled commercial traffic — but it sees a significant amount of private jet activity during the summer tourism and thoroughbred racing seasons. It averages 35,000 to 40,000 flight operations — which can be either a takeoff or landing — per year, and dozens of small private airplanes are based there.

“I suspect that from where we were in 1999, we are seeing more operations, but this study will quantify that,” said Michael Churchill, a senior aviation manager at McFarland-Johnson.

The study will also look at whether the amount of corporate jet traffic is increasing. There’s some feeling it is, because of the arrival of the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant and related corporate activity.

The new master plan will also look at the contentious issue of the rules under which gliders can operate around motorized aircraft, and possible changes in the protections for the Karner blue butterfly, a federal and state endangered species that has a significant amount of managed habitat in the meadows at the airport.

The airport has two intersecting runways, one 4,700 feet long and the other 4,000 feet. Churchill said a master plan could potentially recommend that either one be lengthened, though both are hemmed in by roads and residential developments that would pose limits.

Ultimately, Churchill said the plan will provide information supervisors can use in making decisions about the airport. “The question underlying this is, what do you want it to be?” he said.

But with the region’s biggest and busiest airport, Albany International Airport, only 30 miles away, “the one thing I can say for sure is this will not become a commercial airport,” Churchill said. “More corporate, possibly.”

The county’s Buildings and Grounds Committee on Monday recommended approving the study. The FAA and state will pay 95 percent of the cost.

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