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Renton Airport contractors say expansion can be quiet

While the city of Renton continues to keep the three bids for the proposed corporate jet center under lock and key until its city council decides to open them to the public, a couple that owns the largest flight company at Renton Airport wants the bids released.

Bernie and Diane Paholke, the owners of Pro-Flight Aviation, Inc., submitted one of the three bids and have launched a Web site to help explain that a new aviation center doesn’t mean a significant increase in jet traffic.

The couple also is pushing for the airport to consider implementing different approaches over the Island that would reduce the noise impact with or without a new jet center.

“We believe the city of Renton should review the RFP responses and make the results public as they originally said they would,” Bernie Paholke said. “This is the only way the citizens and elected officials can truly know what a jet center is or could be.”

Though the Paholkes could not release the details of their bid for risk of disqualification, they did say their plan is neighborhood-friendly.

According to the airport manager, Ryan Zulauf, Renton does not plan to release the bids anytime soon.

“There is no desire to release them because the Council wants to consider its options before moving forward,” Zulauf said. “Those options concern the airport layout plan, the development plan and various impact studies.”

The Paholkes said Renton and Mercer Island residents have been calling their company lately with questions about the proposed airport modifications and impacts of a jet center. In response to the high volume of calls, the couple decided to launch a Web site to provide information about the airport’s future.

“Our plan would only be a minimal increase in traffic,” Diane Paholke said last week. “The [airport-] based aircraft don’t generate that much traffic and our proposal would be an increase in those types of aircraft. We are talking about going from seven turbine-powered aircraft on the field to 17. That would still only be about eight to nine operations (flights) a week.”

Bernie Paholke said he responded to Renton’s request for bids for the corporate aviation center with a proposal that the facility be built and operated so it attracts site-based aircraft instead of transient fuel sales. That way the companies are not forced to target transient aircraft or scheduled freight carriers to stay in business, he said.

“Most of the larger jets that would be in and out would only be able to full half their fuel tanks because the runway is too small to get the ground speed needed for takeoff,” Bernie Paholke said. “We’re talking about attracting turboprops, that are quieter than the bigger jets.”

We understand the noise impacts and we know the true sources. With all the airport closures the area has had - we lost Bellevue Airport and Issaquah Airport — pilots are concerned with protecting the few airports we have. We want to be as neighborhood friendly as we can, the couple explained.

“We live right here in Renton,” Diane Paholke said. “We’ve been talking with the neighbors all along and understand the noise complaints.”

In Pro-Flight’s concept, the corporate jet center would construct 27 hangars and a passenger reception facility. Seven of the hangars would be large enough to accommodate larger transient jets and the rest would be rented to aircraft owners and operators.

Renton Airport currently houses one jet and six or seven turbo-props, the Paholkes said. In 2005, there were two jets based in Renton, with a total of 310 aircraft, according to the Web site Airnav.com. The largest portion of aircraft at Renton, 278, in 2005 were recreational type, single engine planes. Only 20 were multi-engine planes and there were 10 helicopters based there.

The city of Renton just released financial impact analyses at its Transportation Aviation Committee meeting last Wednesday. The studies looked at possible modifications to the airport and the financial impacts of implementing them. The options ranged from maintaining a recreational based airport to adding the corporate jet center and included the impact study of not making any changes.

On his Web site, Bernie Paholke explains the difference between resident tenants, “who pay the rent,” and the transient aircraft that “pop in for the day, buy a bunch of fuel and split.” The transients are the gravy of the business, Paholke said, and the permanent tenants are the bread and butter. Paholke said aircraft storage is where the money is even though transient aircraft bring more daily flights. He said there are about two transient operations per day compared to half of an operation per week from the resident aircraft,

“Unlike based aircraft, [transients] are not acutely aware of the noise abatement procedures,” the Paholke’s Web site reads. “They might also take an attitude of ‘Oh well, we won’t be back here anytime soon.’ Pro-Flight informs each and every transient pilot using our facilities of the noise sensitive areas and noise abatement procedures.”

The Paholkes are also advocating the implementation of new and high approaches over Mercer Island to reduce the noise impacts the airport has here.

“We believe all three approach options should be pursued and implemented as quickly as possible,” the Paholkes said. “The decision of whether or not to build a Corporate Aviation Center is irrelevant. Some improvements can be made immediately. The city, airport, and aviation community should consider these options as a proactive way to improve neighborhood relations.”

Last week, the cities of Mercer Island and Renton entered an interlocal agreement to work collaboratively and wait to make any decisions about the development of the Renton airport. City officials are going to gather more information and consult nearby residents about the impacts on their neighborhoods. The memorandum of agreement includes plans for a jointly funded noise study as well. Both cities agreed to work together to solicit public input, draft the scope of work for the noise study and share the results with their residents. The MOU also outlines plans to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to study and implement different flight paths that reduce air traffic noise in residential neighborhoods.

Though it looks like the Sonics will no longer be a factor for the Renton Airport, the Paholkes thought it would have been good for the entire city.

“It’d have been good for all of Renton,” Diane Paholke said. “For the team jets, the arena would not have brought those to the airport. They’re still too large and require more space than what we have here. But for the individual players’ or owners’ jets, they would be able to use it.”

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