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October 29, 2020

Airport runway extension seen as good for city, regional economy

Credit: The Frederick News-Post, Ryan Marshall

Wednesday morning’s cloudy weather prevented a celebratory takeoff to break it in, but the official opening of an extension of one of Frederick Municipal Airport’s runways is expected to provide an economic and transportation benefit to the city and county.

The project extend’s the airport’s Runway 5-23 by 600 feet, to a length of 5,819 feet, which will allow the corporate jets that use the facility to take on more fuel and passengers than they previously had, Airport Manager Rick Johnson said.

The airport also receives a portion of the revenue from the fuel that is sold, he said.

There are several companies in the county that routinely fly their private or corporate jets out of the airport, and major life sciences and biotechnology companies view it as a major asset, said Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.

Companies looking to move into the county regularly ask about the quality of the airport, he said.

For many of them, having to drive an executive to BWI or Dulles airports in a town car rather than flying in and out is a non-starter, he said.

“It’s literally essential for some of our partners to have this airport here,” Weldon said.

Frederick Municipal Airport is a “true economic asset” to the city and the county, with more than 1,100 jobs provided at the airport alone, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor said.

The airport helps provide access to Fort Detrick, the National Cancer Institute, organ donations and other services, along with the economic benefits, he said.

It’s the second busiest airport in Maryland, and the main reliever airport for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, said Richard Griffin, the director of Frederick’s Office of Economic Development.

In 2019, the airport had more than 95,891 takeoffs and landings, and houses about 250 aircraft.

It’s also home to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, an international organization of pilots and aircraft owners, with 200 employees.

AOPA’s Vice President of Flight Operations Dave Roy hailed the project’s completion in a statement.

“We are pleased to see the runway extension at Frederick Municipal [Airport], and support any efforts to make airports even safer than they are. We’ve had a keen eye on this project and [we’re] happy to see its completion. We believe it will bring more aircraft, visitors and businesses to the city.”

While the extension that opened Wednesday has been nearly 20 years in the making, Johnson said there’s still about three more years of taxiway relocation work to be done before the overall project is finished.

The project was funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, Maryland Aviation Administration, the city of Frederick and Frederick County.

Congressman David Trone (D-Md.) praised the project as a great example of coordination between local, state and federal resources, and a valuable infrastructure project that will benefit the region for years.

The preparations for the project involved the demolition of 11 warehouse buildings, three houses and a Waffle House restaurant, along with taking down trees and other obstructions, Griffin said.