What Has Become of the 1997 Solberg Airport Master Plan

Solberg Airport expansion proponents frequently chide the other side for distributing misinformation. In reality, we believe both the complex nature of the issue coupled with the pro expansion spin originating with the airport’s advocates contributes to a poor understanding of what is really going on.

For example, expansion supporters say the longer runway is to improve safety, but what they neglect to add is that the added margin of safety is for a larger class of corporate jets that require a runway 2,000 feet longer than the existing paved 3,000 feet.

So what has become of the 1997 Solberg Airport Master Plan? In 1999 it was given conditional approval by the FAA, pending a successful environmental assessment. The process of the environmental review was started but never completed.

Today, that same conditionally approved plan remains on file at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics and is publicly referenced on the Aviation Plans and Studies webpage as Solberg-Hunterdon. Although dated, its content is still viable!

While Solberg’s plan is not up to current airport planning standards (AC 150/5070-6B – Airport Master Plans – May 2007 Full document) it has not been revoked and could be updated and become current with minimal effort (see paragraph 202 b).

A recent email comment from an airport expansion supporter demonstrated the extent of the misinformation that is prevalent among this group. He write, “The so-called expansion plan that you keep citing was developed many years ago, not as a proposal of an actual direction, but as a potential the FAA envisioned.”

This statement is incorrect on two counts. First, the Airport Master Planning document, linked above, states in paragraph 104 a, “Airport master plans are prepared to support the modernization or expansion of existing airports or the creation of a new airport. The master plan is the sponsor’s strategy for the development of the airport.” The sponsor is typically the airport’s owner or other entity interested in the airport and, according to the FAA’s directions, the Master Plan is the sponsor’s strategy for development. Second, the FAA does not impose its vision of an airport’s potential on a sponsor. Paragraph 205 discusses Master Plan Review by the FAA and states, “The FAA reviews all elements of the master plan to ensure that sound planning techniques have been applied. However, the FAA only approves the following elements of airport master plans: 1) Forecasts of Demand and 2) Airport Layout Plan (ALP).”

Thus, according to the FAA’s directions for Master Planning it is a proposal for an actual development direction as envisioned by the sponsors, the airport owners in the case of Solberg.

Finally, the Solberg Airport Master Plan is supplemented by an ALP, a document that shows the current airport configuration and development proposals. To be clear, the ALP is a high level plan for the airport’s facilities including runways, taxiways, air-side parking, air-side buildings (hangars, maintenance, etc.). It is not a construction detail document but contains sufficient information to locate facilities and define the basic information for such things as runway length and width.

Just as the Solberg Master Plan would require and update so would the ALP. Both of these updates are minor efforts and would bring the documents and plans up to current standards, very likely maintaining the existing development targets of a 5,000 foot primary runway and a 3,750 foot secondary runway.

Should you be tempted to believe that airport expansion at Solberg is no longer of interest consider the statement by Solberg attorney Laurence Orloff in a June 2014 article in General Aviation News where he states,  “They (the Solbergs) want to be able to expand and modernize the airport…” and the ONLY plan is on file with the New Jersey DOT.

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