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Plans to extend runway at North County Airport. Here's why

Officials say project will create economic benefits throughout county
Empty airport road
Posted at 9:28 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 23:25:47-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — An airport meant to relieve jets from Palm Beach International Airport is scaring off pilots due to its small runway, according to county officials.

Their solution: extend the North County Airport's runway. But people within the radius of the airport expressed concerns about the increase in noise.

PBIA Director Laura Beebe said it's a necessary sacrifice to boost economic development in the county.

"There will be an increase in airport activity," Beebe said. "But it's not going to be a significant increase in activity."

The county and city of Palm Beach Gardens worked on the proposal since 2016. The county approved a master plan, which included extending the crossing runway (14/32) from 4,300 feet to 6,000 feet in 2016. The runway would also get wider from 75 feet to 100 feet. The county also applied for an air traffic tower, which the FAA approved in 2019.

small plane lands at North County Airport
A small plane prepares to land at North County Airport.

The county completed an environmental assessment process, which people can now comment on the proposal. Tuesday's meeting is part of the process to extend the runway.

Beebe said the current runway creates problems for certain corporate planes. In May, she told the Palm Beach Gardens City Council this means pilots land at other airports.

"While smaller and some mid-size corporate jets operate at the North County Airport, pilots may be required to reduce the number of passengers the amount of payload and/or the amount of fuel to depart from the North County Airport based on environmental conditions," Bebee said. "Mid-size corporate jets may elect to use alternative airports due to operational limitations or not able to use it based on runway length at all."

She said at the meeting the North County Airport is not a "true reliever for the airport." Beebe also said the project at the North County Airport isn't related to the project at PBIA.

According to previous WPTV reporting, the county airport department also wants to extend a runway at PBIA primarily used for jets.

"PBI essentially operates as a single-runway airport on busy days," Beebe told commissioners in April 2023. "You can't land and take off aircraft when you have an intersection."

The proposal would give PBIA a second runway for commercial planes, which would increase the airport's maximum capacity. PBIA is expected to hit its current maximum capacity between 2028 and 2032 with its current airfield configuration since it includes an intersection.

Most attendees told WPTV they were concerned with the development at the North County Airport. They said they were more concerned with the need for emergency services and the way their animals would react to the noise.

small plane taxis on runway at North County Airport
A small plane taxis on the runway at North County Airport.

"Having day-in and day-out noise is really disturbing to all of our communities," one attendee said. "Our animals and vet bills are out of control."

Ann Moehlenkamp, who said she lives near the airport, said she's also concerned about her horses and the increased noise. She said she thinks the development is going to destroy her way of life.

"My biggest fear is that we are going to get a lot of noise that's going to destroy that peace and paradise," Moehlenkamp said.