Letters to the Editor

Commercial airlines don't need 5,400 feet

The Talbert and Bright report commissioned by Beaufort County states that in 2009, 79,624 passengers used the Hilton Head Island Airport; roughly half visitors.

In a recent story, a US Airways representative stated the airline lost 1,000 passengers in April due to the runway length and weather. In June and July, the planes could carry only 27 of their 37-passenger capacity. Using that rate for the year, 27 times 12 daily flights (including Delta in 2009), the airlines were capable of carrying 118,260 passengers.

With US Airways' 66.7 percent share, at that rate, the airline would have had 25,754 unsold seats that had nothing to do with the runway length or weather.

US Airways serves 56 U.S. airports with turboprops. Last year, Delta discontinued service to Hilton Head and to several airports that have longer runways than Hilton Head's, up to 8,000 feet. US Airways has not indicated its intention to phase out turboprops. If it discontinues service to Hilton Head, it will be an economic decision, not one based on runway length.

Literature from Bombardier, maker of US Airways' turboprops, shows its aircraft will safely operate fully loaded on a runway of 4,694 feet, with a range of 1,494 miles. Its literature states their regional jets need between 5,800 and 6,290 feet with maximum load.

A 5,400-foot runway is not needed to retain the commercial airline that financially supports the airport; it is the owners of private jets who pay no landing fees who want it.

Anastasia Schwarz

Hilton Head Island