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AOPA fights to keep Cleveland airport open

Photos from Burke Lakefront AirportThe city of Cleveland has commissioned two studies to investigate the economic impact and other uses for land development for the Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL), which is headed for closure. The AOPA and other stakeholders in the area are working to deter the city from closing the airport. According to the AOPA, there have been assurances from sponsors that the airport will be maintained and there are numerous economic and community benefits to keeping it open.RELATED STORY:Future uncertain for Burke Lakefront Airport as city officials talk closure Burke Lakefront Airport has been in operation since 1947 and city officials began to talk of its closure in late 2021 and early 2022. After a steady decrease in recent decades, many in the community began to wonder if the land could be better used for a different type of development. Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb spoke of the future of the facility while running as a Mayoral candidate in September 2021. His predecessor, Mayor Frank Jackson, was in support of keeping it open. The airport sits on 450 acres of Cleveland, Ohio lakefront land. The primary function of the waterfront facility is to serve as a reliever airport for the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) which is about 15 miles away. Because of its proximity to Lake Erie and the city of Cleveland, the airport has a lot to offer. It supports flight training and private business operations and other operations, like the Cleveland Clinic, city and state law enforcement, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Coast guard operations. While many officials feel that the large use of land for a declining airport could be better used for the public, the facility is grant obligated, meaning the FAA has final authority over the closure decision. The AOPA said the government began investing in the airport in 1950 through the Federal Airport Act. The FAA Airport Improvement Project has invested $20 million into Burke Lakefront since 2005, including many runway safety area improvements, aircraft rescue and firefighting equipment, apron rehabilitation, and other projects relating to airport planning and safety. AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Kyle Lewis expressed concern over the threat of closure. "AOPA is asking the City of Cleveland to include aviation stakeholders in the process and keep the studies transparent to the taxpayers of Cleveland, and the aviation stakeholders at BKL," Lewis said. Lewis also suggested, "change the focus from closing BKL to investing in the airport and supporting aviation-related development on and around the airport." Peak traffic volumes hit over 100,000 takeoffs in 2000 and dropped to under 54,000 ten years later. The airport only logged 40,296 takeoffs and landings in 2021, not far from the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. The airport is most often used as a general aviation airport. It is often used for facilitating charter flights and medical transport. The facility also has three flight schools on the grounds. The location is close to major sporting arenas and visiting sports teams and fans often use the two runways. Sitting close to the heart of Cleveland, visitors are within walking distance of the FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock andamp; Roll Hall of Fame. The airport also hosts the Cleveland National Air Show on Labor Day weekend, one of the oldest air exhibitions in the country. This show brings in 50,000 people and about $7 million in economic impact annually.Video from the Cleveland National Air Show "Burke Lakefront is an airport that the aviation community cannot afford to lose," Lewis said. "The airport has a significant impact on the citizens of Cleveland and is a unique destination for aviators. There is potential for the city to invest in STEM education, right on the airport property. The Mayor's plan is short-sighted and we hope to change the conversation." The AOPA reports that the first study is underway and the second is already out for contract. The organization will continue to plan meetings with Cleveland's administration and bring concerns alongside other aeronautical stakeholders, aviation interests and Ohio aviators, said the AOPA.
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