BERKELEY – The first new runway built in New Jersey in more than 30 years is open to air traffic.
Crosswind runway 14-32 at Ocean County Airport in Robert J. Miller Airpark actually has been operational for several months, but county and Federal Aviation Administration officials celebrated the political and engineering triumph at a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday afternoon.
At 3,400 feet in length and 75 feet in width, the auxiliary runway is shorter than the main 6,000-foot runway and is to be used when the wind is blowing perpendicular to the original. Before the crosswind runway was built, pilots had to contend with gusts that has caused smaller airplanes to crash while on approach.
This was especially difficult in the winter months when the prevailing northwest winds threatened the small, fixed-wing general-aviation aircraft, explained Lori K. Pagnanelli, manager for the FAA at the Harrisburg Airports District Office in Pennsylvania, which has federal oversight authority of Ocean County Airport.
In remarks at the ceremony Thursday, in which Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato and Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy were among the invited guests, Pagnanelli declared that the new runway meets all FAA standards for small, general aviation aircraft. In recent years, the airport has also seen its share of corporate jets coming and going.
For years, environmental activists have long opposed the new runway on grounds that any further major development in the Pinelands Preservation Area of this scope was unacceptable.
Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said a crosswind runway had been planned and the land cleared when the airport first opened in 1968, but that the second runway was nixed when construction of the 420-acre airpark ran over budget.
The additional runway, parallel taxiway and upgraded safety features at the airport required by the FAA have come at a cost of $8.2 million, about 90 percent of which was funded by the federal government. The state Department of Transportation and the county government covered the rest of the cost.
“In 30 years, the state of New Jersey has lost 14 airports,” Vicari said. “What’s happened is that the airports — they’re dying all over the place.”
Vicari said modernizing this airport over the years has been important to the county government in an effort to maintain safety and the county’s homeland security, and to attract economic development.
“One thing is because of economic development. It’s very important. When a corporation wants to locate some place, they need an airport for executives to go in and out — whether it be a (fixed wing) aircraft or whether it be a helicopter, whatever the case may be.”
The freeholder said the airport was used as a staging area during superstorm Sandy and would be an essential base of operations in the event of another disaster at the Jersey Shore, such as a major forest fire in the Pine Barrens.
“We use it every day, especially in the summertime, when our population goes from 580,000 to 600,000,” Vicari said.
Mike Maino, a spokesman for Ocean Air Support Squadron, which provides air search and surveillance services to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department and its Office of Emergency Management, said in public remarks Thursday that the absence of a crosswind runway at the airport had been a “cocktail for disaster.”
“Flying a small aircraft in the winter time with gusty winds or in the summer when you have a high-density altitude is very difficult for a general aviation pilot,” Maino said. “(Today with the new runway) in the middle of Barnegat Bay, on our flights coming in, you can see ‘3-2’ looking at you, it’s just a beautiful thing.”
Erik Larsen: 732-557-5709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
BY THE NUMBERS
Runway 06-24 and Helipad
This is the main runway at Ocean County Airport, which was built in 1968. This runway is 5,950 feet in length and 100 in width. This runway is certified to accommodate aircraft weighing up to 100,000 pounds per wheel load bearing and thus can serve all general aviation aircraft and corporate jets. In the event of an emergency, the airport can also handle commercial airliners and military transports.
The new crosswind runway is 3,600 feet in length and 75 feet in width. This runway is specifically designed to accommodate smaller, lighter aircraft that are more susceptible to the effects of wind gusts blowing perpendicular to the main runway, which can cause these airplanes to crash.
Source: Ocean County Airport (MJX)