Georgia crash puts Arlington residents on edge

By Hailey Winslow, General assignment reporter, hwinslow@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 25 2014 04:10:10 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 25 2014 07:01:47 PM EDT

VIDEO: The decision to extend a runway at one of Jacksonville's busiest airports is still up in the air. Operators at Craig Airport and neighbors in East Arlington continue to clash over expanding the landing strip to 6-thousand feet.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The search for a twin-engine plane that went down 70 miles north of Jacksonville has East Arlington residents again discussing whether or not the runway at Craig Airport should be extended.

Federal authorities said a twin-engine Piper PA-44 flying from Concord, N.C., to Jacksonville Executive at Craig disappeared from radar Monday evening near St. Simons Island.

The plane is believed to belong to the ATP Flight School, based at Craig Airport.

This comes amid continuing discussions about extending the main runway at Craig Airport from 4,000 to 6,000 feet to allow more business aircraft to use the facility.

"There is no reason that Craig Airport in the last 20 years has not had its runway extended," said Marshall Wood, director of marketing for Malone AirCharter. "It has to happen. There's an economic imperative."

But Greater Arlington Civic Council president and city planner Lad Hawkins says extending the runway raises safety and noise concerns and would hurt property value of homeowners in the area.

The most recent of several crashes around Craig Airport was a plane that went down in a Sandalwood neighborhood pond in December, narrowly missing a home and killing a South Florida pilot and his two daughters.

"Craig Field is going to stay a little airport, and we're going to build lots of houses around it, and that's still our plan," Hawkins said.

Hawkins says in 1990, city leaders adopted a comprehensive plan for Jacksonville which clearly states "runways at Craig Field shall not be extended."

"The future is, if they extend one runway, then later on they may extend another runway, and then link to that runway," Hawkins said. "You can't stop it once the horse gets out of barn."

Hawkins says the money would be better spent at Cecil Field, Jacksonville Aviation Authority's regional airport on the Westside.

"If you had $20 million and you wanted to spend it, you should spend it there, not here for a couple fat cats who live in Ponte Vedra and want to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, in their jets because they're too lazy to drive up to JIA," Hawkins said.

A spokeswoman for Jacksonville Aviation Authority said there are no current plans to extend the runway at Craig, but it remains a possibility in the future.

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