Monday, July 12, 2010

HHH needs to be 5400 ft.

Fly Jetpool HHH airport needs to be 5400 ft. Tonight, Hilton Head Island and County Chamber members will debate the lengthening of Hilton Head Island's airport (HHH). Some time ago, I asked a colleague about chartering a flight between Ohio (CAK) and HHH and was surprised to learn that he could not land on the island. So I asked Ryan Stone of Jetpool LLC to explain why this was the case. His letter (shared with his permission) is as follows: ---- Hilton Head residents - you may not know what you don’t know…at least from the perspective of this private jet operator (Jetpool, LLC based in Charlotte, NC). Increasing the runway distance beyond 5000’ may have more potential economic impact than you may realize given the more public focus on adding just 300’ of runway for commercial airline traffic. Most islanders probably do not know that it is virtually impossible to bring charter jet traffic into HHH. The few private jets you see are actually just the tip of your potential iceberg because, for the most part, they are all flown under Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (‘FAR’) where there are more lenient runway requirements. However, if your runway were lengthened to 5400’, it would mean that most of the FAR Part 135 certified charter operators, plus the similarly restricted Part 91k Fractional operators, would now be able to access your island’s airport with a short-field capable jet. Simply put, the 1100’ extra runway distance you are debating is the difference in runway safety margin needed to permit more widespread Part 135 charter operations. Why is this Part 91 / 135 distinction important? Currently, in order to use your runway, a charter operator has to undergo a very special ‘runway analysis’ with the FAA that is cumbersome and costly (not to mention that even with FAA approval your 4300’ runway still reduces safety margin). What difference does this 91/135/runway analysis gibberish make to you? Well it means that you have never actually seen the number of private jet airplanes and their passengers that you could; the only people flying to HHH on the private jet side are the actual owners of the aircraft under Part 91 flight rule. The much larger segment of the population that can afford to fly charter (but not own a jet) is likely going to a different island destination, in part, because of the inability to fly directly to HHH on a charter jet under Part 135 regulations. What would be the economic impact to your community if you could capture this potential charter market? How many more homes would now not sit vacant because of the new found convenience of flying direct to HHH? Would attracting more people with high levels of disposable income have other positive impacts in your community? Currently, Jetpool routinely turns down about thirty charter customer requests a year to fly directly to Hilton Head. At the same time, we fly numerous charter customers to Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, Amelia Island, and other nearby communities because they all have Part 135 short-field jet accessible runways. While thirty is a relatively small number, we are just one operator. There are thousands of charter operators across the country so it is likely there is a significant pent-up demand for direct charter jet access to HHH. Unfortunately for both us and you, we (plus most of our industry) have been educating our customers on why they can’t legally fly to Hilton Head on our charter jet fleet due to your short runway. I acknowledge that the potential of increased jet traffic may give you concern regarding more jet noise. However, jets are getting quieter by the day with new technologies. In fact, the short field jets capable of using a 5000’ strip are for the most part Stage 3 or, like our brand new Embraer Phenom 100, even Stage 4 noise compliant (i.e. like the sound of a hairdryer in the next room). Ultimately, you face a difficult decision as a community. I write to you as an outsider only to make sure that you make your decision with a fuller understanding of what the extra 1100’ runway length proposal might mean in terms of its positive economic impact and how it might broaden Hilton Head’s appeal. Thank you for listening to this outsider’s view. Ryan Stone Chief Executive Officer Jetpool, LLC 4690 First Flight Drive Charlotte, NC 28208 Work: (704) 359-4674
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