Safety is the key behind Ocean County’s successful effort to add a crosswind runway to the Robert J. Miller County Airpark in Berkeley Township.
Slated to open early in 2014, the 3,400-foot runway will not only provide pilots with safer landings and takeoffs – based on wind direction – but will also mark the return of the state Forest Fire Service to the airport.
“I’m very pleased to announce that the Fire Service will return to Miller Airpark in 2014,” said Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari.
Vicari, who is liaison to the airpark, said the Fire Service pulled out of the airpark several years in part because of the lack of a second runway.
“Forest fires often coincide with high winds, and those same winds that fanned the flames also made flights into and out of the airport too dangerous,” Vicari said.
The new runway is much shorter than the existing 6,000-foot main runway and in no way increases air traffic capacity at the airport.
“We have said it time and time again that the crosswind runway is a safety upgrade, and only a safety upgrade,” Vicari said.
A crosswind runway was originally planned when the airport opened in 1968, but was delayed by funding and environmental issues.
Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., liaison to both the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation and the county’s Natural Lands Trust Committee, attended the public hearings on the airport upgrades before the state Pinelands Commission and argued the importance of the second runway.
“The Pinelands Commission was very much aware of how important these safety improvements are to the pilots operating out of the airpark,” Bartlett said.
Subsequent to Pinelands approval, the Federal Aviation Authority awarded the county a $7 million grant to construct the runway.
The Fire Service is not the only agency to make use of the airport to protect the public.
The Freeholders on December 18 are scheduled to approve the county’s annual agreement with the Ocean Air Support Squadron. The squadron provides aerial services to the County Sheriffs department for such things as missing persons, distressed boats, and illegal dumping.
The airpark is located on 420 acres in Berkeley Township about five miles west of Toms River. It is a precision approach facility that can accommodates various aircraft, including private airplanes, small corporate jets, the Civil Air Patrol and Emergency Services aircraft.
“The state Department of Transportation advised us that this crosswinds runway will be the first new runway constructed in New Jersey in over 25 years,” Vicari said. [TLS]