Could airport funds create a monopoly?

Thursday, September 27, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:06 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A consortium of regional partners, including the city of Columbia, MU, Jefferson City and the Tri-County Lodging Association, have agreed to ante up some $2 million in seed money to lure a major airline to provide two daily, nonstop, one-hour jet flights \from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Columbia Regional Airport starting in June 2008 with fares that are comparable to those from O’Hare to St. Louis. This $2 million pot would cover any losses sustained by the unnamed airline. This group initiative is a promising short-term plan to bring much needed, more dependable jet service to and from the airport.

As a retired airport planning consultant, it is suggested that perhaps there is time for the city and its regional partners to take a seriously closer look at the existing runway system at Columbia Regional Airport. The main runway is 6,500-feet long and has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, via a recent airport master plan update, to be extended 500 feet to 7,000 feet long, including the necessary environmental assessment OK.

A 7,000-foot main runway provides most narrow body jets, including the 224-seat 757, with the capability to fly 1,000 miles nonstop. In fact, a circle drawn around Columbia Regional Airport with a 1,000-mile radius shows some 20 major cities and airports are reachable in the U.S. and Canada. A 7,000-foot main runway would also benefit air cargo traffic and charter flights with additional city pair markets to popular tourist destinations.

The question is: Why not spend a small portion (1 to 2 percent) of the $2 million war chest personally contacting our Missouri senators and congressmen in Washington to conduct an organized, relentless, bipartisan lobby of the Department of Transportation and the FAA to include the cost of extending the main runway at Columbia Regional Airport 500 feet using discretionary, earmarked 2008 fiscal DOT/FAA money from the Airport Trust Fund?

Finally, why give one airline a monopoly to the mid-Missouri Ozarks market when a small improvement to the main runway can open up the Columbia Regional Airport market to some 20 major cities and airports around the country and Canada?

Also, what about changing the name of the airport to Mid-Mo. Ozarks Jetport?

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