KENT: Eight years ago, Kent State wanted to decommission its airport and move elsewhere. But the Federal Aviation Administration, which has final say about the property, said the airport was too important to move and that it didn’t want to waste the $3.9 million it had given KSU for improvements there.
Now, university officials are taking a fresh look at the 287-acre airport between state Route 59 and River Road in Stow in Summit County.
“We were stuck with a plan that we couldn’t act on,” airport operations coordinator Dave Paluga said. “Since the last plan, there has been a lot of economic changes. We’ve been stuck in a status quo.”
The university has hired consultant C & S Cos., headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., to conduct public meetings and develop a proposal for the KSU trustees and the FAA. Funding comes from a $600,000 FAA grant.
The main goal of the master plan will be to “determine what is needed to meet the current and future needs of the airport,” according to the university.
The master plan will include an airport layout plan, a schedule of priorities and funding sources for proposed improvements, KSU said.
The airport is both a training ground for KSU flight students and a Stow community resource — plus sometimes a bone of contention for nearby residents who believe the aircraft are too noisy or fly too low.
Complaints reached a crescendo about eight years ago when KSU considered expanding or moving the airport. But Stow city officials, then as now, want the airport to stay right where it is.
“If there are ongoing concerns, I want the city to be a part of developing any changes,” Stow Mayor Sarah Drew said this week. “The airport is an asset to Stow.”
The airport, formally called the Andrew W. Paton Field after KSU’s first flight instructor, was used as a landing field in World War I. KSU bought it in 1947.
One of 29 general service airports statewide, the facility serves twin- and single engine aircraft used for business, pleasure and training. A for-profit company, Commercial Aviation Corp., leases multiple hangars for aerial photography, flight training, charter flights and more.
Mostly, though, the airport is used by about 200 KSU students studying in what is the largest flight-training program in Ohio. The university has about 24 planes.
Expansion probably isn’t in the offing, airport operations coordinator Thomas Friend said.
“We may get a few more aircraft and get rid of a few, but we don’t have the facilities to expand,” he said.
John Trew, president of the Portage County Regional Airport, said he would welcome the relocation of the KSU airport to his Ravenna facility, one of the options discussed in the last master plan. But that isn’t to be, he said.
KSU officials “told us in the last two years that they’re going to do whatever they have to do at their own field,” he said.
What that will be isn’t clear now.
Gregg Floyd, senior vice president for finance and administration at KSU, said in a media release that the university is deferring any reinvestments at the airport until the master plan is completed in 18 months, but that some improvements are needed.
“The needs are becoming urgent,” he said.
Comments about the future of the airport should be directed to Aileen Maguire Meyer of C & S at 216-619-5449, 877-277-6583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.