Plans to extend runway at Kenosha airport get preliminary OK

September 12, 2018


This aerial shot shows the Kenosha Regional Airport primary and secondary runways. The primary runway, which is the widest and longest, can be seen on the left half of the image going up and down. It is planned for reconstruction and expansion under a project to enhance safety, officials said. The development will begin in 2019 with groundbreaking planned for 2020. (photo courtesy of City of Kenosha)
This aerial shot shows the Kenosha Regional Airport primary and secondary runways. The primary runway, which is the widest and longest, can be seen on the left half of the image going up and down. It is planned for reconstruction and expansion under a project to enhance safety, officials said. The development will begin in 2019 with groundbreaking planned for 2020. (photo courtesy of City of Kenosha)

Plans to rebuild and extend the main runway at Kenosha Regional Airport are moving forward, with work likely to begin next year.

Last week, the plans were OK’d by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in a preliminary analysis.

Plans include 11 proposed improvements, including:

  • Lengthening the runway from just under 5,500 feet to 6,600 feet.
  • Extending the parallel taxiway accordingly to access the extension.
  • Rebuilding and strengthening the runway to better accommodate current and future corporate and general aviation traffic.
  • Acquiring property “to protect and control” the extended runway airspace and protection zone, as well as removal of trees and obstructions to provide clear approach procedures at both runway ends.
  • Creating “dry ponds” and making other improvements to control stormwater runoff.
  • Making other improvements to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards.

Mead & Hunt, the city’s consultant for the project, prepared the preliminary plans and will work with WisDOT to review public testimony from a public hearing last week as well as written comments received from the public.

Airport issues

Lengthening the runway is necessary as the airport is viewed as a key asset, according to Airport Commission chairman Steve Bostrom.

The FAA views the airport as an important relief valve between Chicago and Milwaukee, particularly for larger corporate aircraft. “The largest we can accommodate is a Gulfstream 650, and that’s an 18-passenger,” Airport Director Corey Reed said.

He said very rarely the airport gets twin-engine propeller aircraft with 20- to 30-seat capacities. The larger corporate jets can hold more fuel, which makes them heavier.

“We do not have plans for, nor do we have any commercial airlines. Could we someday have a commercial user? Perhaps, but this project will not accommodate their needs,” Reed said.

“The runway improvements are intended to better serve the needs of private corporate and general aviation users. There are some 20- to 30-seat  passenger planes that we could handle, but those are rare, and not a common airport user for us,” he added.

The airport is an FAA-designated “reliever” for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.

“The largest jet we can and will normally accommodate is a Gulfstream 650, which can carry up to 18 passengers,” Reed said. “I’m limited by the thickness of the pavement and the width of the pavement as far as larger, heavier aircraft go. I’m at that capacity with a Gulfstream — even after these improvements.”

Nor is the project intended to bring in more cargo jets, which were more commonly users when Chrysler was operating in Kenosha. Reed said such aircraft rarely use the field today.

Bostrom said diverting such traffic here enables thinning congestion to some degree at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.

“That’s why they strongly support this expansion,” Bostrom said, adding at present the runway isn’t long enough to accommodate the traffic. “The more fuel on board, the heavier the takeoff load, the more runway you need,” he said.

Larger corporate jets now using the airport cannot take on full loads of fuel necessary for longer flights.

“In the summertime, during times of high heat and humidity, when the air is less dense, you need a longer runway to create lift when the aircraft is fully loaded. And, in winter, when the runways are compromised with ice and snow, you need more distance to stop — especially when you come in fully loaded,” Reed said.

READ MORE in the Kenosha News