Crosswind runway considered

The question on whether there is a future for a crosswind runway at the Princeton airport is still being blown about in city hall and it seems like it might finally get answered.

The most buffeting of this topic was during last Thursday’s monthly city council study session.

Crosswind runways are installed at some airports to make it safer for pilots of small planes to land when the winds are perpendicular to the main runway. The reason the crosswind runway subject has come up again, City Administrator Mark Karnowski told the council, is this: The city council is looking into extending Twenty-first Avenue from just south of First Street through the edge of the airport to the industrial park.

The city’s airport planning consultant, Kaci Nowicki, has told the city that if the city wants to both extend Twenty-first Avenue and install a crosswind runway, the city would have to take one of two actions:

1. Apply to the FAA for a concurrent use request, and that would mean the city would have to prove there is no aeronautical use for the property where the road would go. The only way that could be is if a crosswind runway was removed from the airport’s layout plan (ALP), according to Karnowski.

2. Apply to the FAA for a land release and in that case the crosswind runway would have to be taken off the ALP, or the designated spot for it be shifted west.

A master plan study estimated to cost $80,000 to $100,000 would be needed for either of the above options, Karnowski noted. The study, he said, would determine the need for a crosswind runway and if it could be shifted west of its present concept location.

The city’s airport consultant, Joel Dresel, with the engineering firm SEH, has the opinion that the airport could have both a crosswind runway and the Twenty-first extension, Karnowski said. But the FAA supervisor in the Twin Cities, Gordon Nelson, disagrees, Karnowski added.

Karnowski also mentioned recent scrutiny in the region on the justification for crosswind runways. He added that if the city’s ALP indicates a crosswind runway wouldn’t be funded in Princeton, then the FAA may become convinced it is not needed.

Karnowski, speaking more on the subject on Monday, said the cost of a crosswind runway would be quite high, as it would require environmental studies and design work, besides the construction.

Added to that is the reduced government money to assist the city in airport projects, Karnowski said. He explained that the federal airport grants have for years been a split so the feds pay 95 percent of a project and the local government pays five percent. Now the split for future projects will be 90-10, and the city has been using these annual grants to keep the airport maintained, Karnowski said. So there wouldn’t be enough money accumulated through the grants to build a crosswind runway, he added.

Besides, Princeton has a “de facto” crosswind runway in the form of the smaller of its two taxiways at the airport, Karnowski said. He said he understands that some pilots in small planes have been using the small taxiway at times for the purpose of landing when there are crosswinds.

Karnowski suggested the council and airport advisory board meet jointly during the April 5 council study session to discuss such airport topics. When Karnowski was asked about that on Monday, he said the joint meeting will likely have to be postponed because the annual property assessment board of review meeting is scheduled for April 5.