The city of Columbia wants to expand Columbia Regional Airport, but one landowner is refusing to sell some of the land the airport needs. The city requires 58 acres to expand the runways at Columbia Regional. They successfully came to terms to purchase 53 acres from other owners.
City attorneys filed for an eminent domain request for the last 5 acres of land located north of the airstrip. The Federal Aviation Administration stated longer runways are a safety requirement for the airport if larger planes begin flying in and out of the airport. Chairman of the Airport Advisory Board Greg Cecil claims the renovations will also make it easier for pilots to see other aircraft.
“We have a tower and those guys do a fabulous job,” Cecil said. ”But any other extra safety precautions that we can take for a safer airport is something that we want to accomplish.“
Cecil also said the city had the option to extend the runways to the southern end of the airport, but chose to buy land to the north. That’s because crews would have had to demolish existing buildings on the south side of the airfield to make room for expanded runways. This plan would also move Route H farther north from its current location if the airport expands.
Columbia Regional Airport Manager Don Elliott says the FAA needs the land to ensure there is no future development on the property.
“The only reason the FAA wants the airport to own that land is to ensure no structures would be built on that land,” Elliott said. “But once you’ve built a shed or a barn, then it becomes a safety issue, especially at an approach and departure end of the runway."
Elliott says the city will eventually begin using larger aircraft to ship cargo in and out of the airport. He also says that the concrete on the runways is about 50 years old and continuous improvements to the airport’s infrastructure are important to its future.