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Airport buys land to improve safety

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MT. COMFORT — The sky is getting a bit taller at the north end of Indianapolis Regional Airport’s Runway 16/34.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority recently purchased approximately four acres of land from the estate of Sharon A. Kingen along CR 500W just north of CR 500N to improve air safety at the airport, said Carlo Bertolini, Indianapolis Airport Authority director of corporate communications.

Since completing the $294,000 land purchase in December, the airport authority has been demolishing the home and outbuildings on the four-acre parcel and cutting down trees that stand directly in the flight path of planes using the runway, Bertolini said in an email.

The trees did not obstruct the flight path coming in or out of the airport, nor did they violate any obstruction standards from the Federal Aviation Administration. Local officials say they are bringing the trees down in an “abundance of caution.”

“Removing trees near runways also reduces perching points for area wildlife near the airport, which can affect safety of flight,” Bertolini wrote.

Airports are paying closer attention to bird habitats because collisions between aircraft and wildlife are rising. According to a 2013 story in USA Today, the number of collisions reported nationwide topped 11,500 in 2012. That’s almost double the amount in 2002 and four times the number of collisions reported 10 years before that, the newspaper said, citing figures from the FAA.

From a pilot’s perspective, having a little more sky at the end of the runway protects the slope or glide path available when making a landing, said Ryan Maxwell, general manager of Indy Flight, the airport’s fixed-based operator and chief flight instructor at Indy Flight Training.

FAA regulations dictate minimum clearances and altitudes for aircraft glide slopes as they approach for a landing, depending on a variety of factors, and the work at the end of runway 16/34 ensures the airport is in compliance.

Though the property does not lie directly in the centerline of the runway, FAA rules require that the glide slope be protected by varying degrees to the left and right of the runway, Maxwell said.

“It’s also routine practice for airports to purchase land for future growth or expansion,” he said.

Airport authority officials in Indianapolis said there are no plans to expand the Mt. Comfort airport.

Kingen, of McCordsville, died in January 2013. She was the owner of the Kingen Gun Club that is situated just south of the property purchased by the airport authority; however, property connected with the gun club was not involved in the transaction.

The airport authority did purchase a “navigation easement” over the balance of the Kingen property that does not prevent future construction of homes or other structures but does place height restrictions on future buildings there and provides waivers and releases for present or future noise claims that might be asserted by property owners or occupants, Bertolini said.

Kingen was an avid sport shooter and a member of the Indiana Trap Shooting Association. A former teacher at Ball State University and the University of Indianapolis, Kingen also won the Grand National Ladies Championship award for trapshooting in Vandalia, Ohio.

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