Saturday, November 28, 2009

Brian vs. Zelda on 10,000 ft Runway

Obviously you and Zelda cannot both be right if taken literally, but Zelda is "more right", because Southwest does operate from both Midway and John Wayne (Orange County CA, 5400 ft) every day without selecting airplanes for it. Because of its altitude, Midway's 6500 ft main runway is functionally the same as PFN's 6300 ft sea level runway. The charts you found are for the extreme condition of "maximum takeoff weight" which is usually "maximum fuel plus as much payload as possible with max fuel". This configuration is of interest only if the mission is maximum range, such as ferrying the airplane to Europe with only a crew. For passenger operations, the controlling configuration is "range with maximum payload (much less than max fuel)" and the 737's can obviously operate from Midway to the West Coast daily from less than 6500 ft. The 737-700 (most of SW fleet) can go to max payload/range from 5200 ft. To get these numbers, you have to read Boeing performance charts for the airplanes (these were online at some point but I'm not sure if still available). AirTran has recently announced 737-700 service to Key West (4800 ft).

This is all academic as to the Beaches airport, but its important to be careful with the facts. I have always said that the new airport should be 10,000 ft if it is to add any significant capability, because the old airport was capable of handling any likely domestic flight. The 757 has even better performance than the 737, going daily from Orange County to New York. The 10,000 ft runway only comes into play for intercontinental flights - it is not necessary for Canada or Mexico. No doubt St. Joe will charter some international 757/767 flights to promote its property and the airport. The long term hope is to attract an international industry that could use the airport for logistics.

The new airport will thus be more capable at the high end, where operations will be few. At the low end, where most of its takeoffs/landings are, it will be less capable because it has no crosswind runway needed over 100 days a year by light airplanes. The nearest alternative will be Marianna or Apalachicola; Panama City will be the largest city in the state with no community airport within 10 miles, having sold PFN for half the cost of grading the swamp at West Bay.

in reference to: FAA OKs runway extension | west, bay, florida - News - The News Herald (view on Google Sidewiki)

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