Activity at the Chandler Municipal Airport has soared in recent years, making the former landing strip for crop dusters among the nation’s top 50 busiest general aviation airports.
Now, city officials have updated their master plan for the airport that calls for, among other things, a longer runway to handle what they expect to be a doubling of flights over the next 20 years.
“Safety is improved for everyone” by lengthening one of the airport’s runways 850 feet — from 4,850 feet to 5,700 feet.
The runway expansion isn’t the only improvement in the plan. Major road improvements, including an expanded entryway from Germann Road between Cooper and McQueen roads, are also on the agenda.
“There are a lot of people who see the airport there, but can’t quite figure out how to get there,” Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said. “It doesn’t really have a presence now.”
City economic development staff say that by 2025, the airport will generate nearly $87 million a year in economic impact without the runway extension.
They predict that number will increase to $105 million if the runway is extended.
The Chandler City Council is expected to ask voters to authorize the runway expansion.
Most of the cost for the expansion would be covered with Federal Aviation Administration grants, though voters will likely be asked in May to approve a $65,000 bond proposal that would go toward the runway project.
Airport neighbors who oppose the expansion say a longer runway will mean more and larger aircraft.
“I understand that longer runways allow larger airplanes, including corporate jets to fly out loaded with more fuel,” resident Beverly Parris said.
But proponents disagree.
“The extended runway would still allow the existing type of aircraft with a greater safety margin and yearround” and not larger planes, said Pam Keidel-Adams, a consultant hired by the city to develop the master plan update.
Currently, some airplanes either cannot take off or have to do so with less fuel during the summer months. A longer runway would allow those planes to gain the speed needed to take off.
“(The runway) is built out with this extension,” said John Walkup, who has owned and operated Chandler Air Service at the airport for 27 years. “You can’t go any further. You can’t go any bigger. All you can do is make it better and safer.”