Manassas Airport Lengthening Runway

August 14, 2012

Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field (HEF), Virginia’s largest regional airport located 30 miles west of Washington, DC, has launched a runway expansion project that is expected to increase safety, improve access and drive economic growth for the airport, operators and local community.

Construction will stretch the 5,700-foot runway – the airport’s longest – to 6,200 feet. Work on the 500-foot extension began July 1 and is to be completed by Nov. 30.

With the longer runway, aircraft will be able to take off with more fuel, enabling them to fly to the West Coast without stopping to refuel, said Juan Rivera, the airport’s manager. The extension will also reduce noise north of the airport, and give pilots “more runway to land in inclement weather, thus creating a better margin of safety.”

At least some portion of the runway will be available throughout the project, Rivera said, though at times the useable runway will decrease.

The temporary runway-length reductions will require some customers to pursue workarounds. For instance, John Kelley, who oversees domestic and international operations of a Gulfstream GIII based at the airport, said, “We plan to reposition to Dulles International Airport when necessary in order to have the runway length we need.”

But Kelley predicted the project’s long-term benefits will far outweigh the short-term inconvenience. Besides the safety and takeoff improvements, the expansion will reduce wear and tear on landing gear.

“Brakes are extraordinarily expensive, and a longer runway means we can use less brake pressure on each landing and save lots of wear,” Kelley explained.

Paige Kroner, president of the Greater Washington Business Aviation Association, said more types of aircraft will be able to use the airport, which will drive new economic development opportunities to the airport and surrounding areas.

“Aircraft that haven’t used Manassas before this expansion will now be able to utilize the airport and its full-service facilities,” including two aviation service providers, U.S. Customs and an air traffic control tower, Kroner said.

Since bad weather requires more room to land, the longer runway should also result in fewer aircraft being diverted to larger airports such as Dulles, Kroner added.

The expansion could also create what Kelley described as a “psychological advantage” for the airport.

“It may draw more pilots as they will view it as a ‘bigger’ airport,” Kelley said. “When I see a runway length that starts with a ‘five,’ I think to myself, ‘oh, this might be a little tight.’ The expansion should make everyone feel more comfortable coming to Manassas.”