By Dean Narciso
Two meetings yielded an information bonanza yesterday for those concerned about Ohio State University's plan to lengthen a runway at Don Scott Field.
In a three-hour, largely technical meeting of the airport advisory committee, Worthington consultants clashed with OSU's noise consultants over findings that doubling the airport's north runway would not significantly harm the surrounding community.
David Zoll, Worthington's legal consultant, told the City Council on Tuesday that a noise analysis by DLZ and Wyle Labs was "fatally flawed" in three main areas, any one of which would boost noise-level findings and possibly delay or prevent the proposed runway extension.
Yesterday was the first time OSU's consultants responded to the criticism.
In the meeting at Carriage Place Recreation Center, Zoll questioned nearly every step of the consultants' preliminary findings, faulting such areas as the mix of airplanes the consultants used to predict Don Scott's growth, the angle at which planes take off and the purpose and need of the project.
Wes Butch, DLZ project manager, noted Zoll's complaints and pledged to investigate the merits of each and provide answers.
Zoll said university and airport officials at different times have given various reasons as justification for the project \u2014 from academic need to safety issues to promoting corporate jet travel.
Zoll has said the Federal Aviation Administration requires a specific reason for the project.
FAA official Ernest Gubry said the government allows for runway extensions and will help finance one at Don Scott, if the airport's most-frequently used airplane, the Gulfstream V, engages in at least 500 annual takeoffs and landings, provided the effect on the environment is minimal. In 2003, the Gulfstream had 2,936 operations.
Riverlea Mayor Mary Jo Cusack, whose community has battled the airport for years on the noise issue, said that OSU has been soliciting corporate jet business by advertising in local publications.
"You're actively going out and encouraging the demand," she said.
Airport director Doug Hammon then said, "We're a corporate facility. It's not creating demand; demand has always been there."
Responding to a charge that OSU's consultants predicted that several older airplanes would prematurely be retired because they are noisy, Wyle Labs director William W. Albee said his projection was based on surveys taken of business pilots.
"If another method is available, we'll consider it," Albee said.
Wes Butch called most of Worthington's concerns valid, including his firm's use of projections that might exaggerate takeoff angle, thereby minimizing noise. "We want to take a step back and take another look at it."
Throughout the presentation, members of the committee gave terse replies and at times grew irritated.
At one stalemate, Gubry, who will have a major role in analyzing the OSU proposal, said "Let us say right now there's a difference of opinion and move on."
Committee member Paul Hammersmith, Dublin city engineer, said the meeting was bogged down in details, to which Zoll replied: "We're here to try to get some answers. You're just here to try to rubber stamp it."
Afterward, at a nearby school, OSU hosted a public forum, attended by about 70 people.
Some urged William A. Baeslack, OSU's dean of engineering, to be accessible and honest throughout the process.
"My integrity is based on that," said Baeslack. "And that is exactly what the OSU Board of Trustees wants to have."
The pointed questions and technical challenges sent a powerful signal, said resident Jane Weislogel after both meetings.
"I think it may have awakened them to the fact that we're not giving up."
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