Airport Chairman Expressed Safety Concerns in Email to City

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By: 
Kevin Murphy

 

MIDDLETON–The chairman of the Middleton Airport Commission, an experienced pilot, said in an email last May, that he wouldn’t train at the city’s airport due to the mix of piston and faster moving turbine driven aircraft.

In an email to City Planning and Zoning Administrator Mark Opitz, John Hallick raised safety concerns involving the Middleton airport which he characterized as “one of the densest airport environments around.”

After flying with Airport Manager Richard Morey for about four hours, Hallick wrote that he told Morey that he “wouldn’t train at C29 (Morey Field). He understood why.”

“We have students and on-field pilots locked into mindless orbits around the field. Some of the aircraft are tail draggers for back country. They like to fly the grass strip. Sometimes they even land off the designated landing areas on the side of the runway (which I don’t think is legal.) 

“When both runways are in use, you have two perpendicular orbits. Add in instrument and turbine straight in flights and you have chaos. You can hear on the radio, “Sorry Ralph I didn’t see you.” I’ve almost been hit twice. When those pilots got on the ground they got an ear full,” Hallick wrote on May 20.

The commission chairman’s email went on to highlight other problems at the airport that residents have been raising while an airport master plan is being prepared.

“Out where I live in the Town of Vermont, we have aircraft fly at tree top levels. I have a private airport (WI66) planes occasionally do a touch and go or make a low pass disturbing my neighbors. Both are illegal at a private airport. It has to make me wonder what are they doing West of the (Middleton) airports over the subdivisions?”

“Now we are discussing adding a longer runway and turbine traffic. My last plane was a turbine. If you fly a pattern (which you don’t) the pattern speeds are 140 knots not 80 knots. Patterns are bigger. 95% of the time you come in on a straight in approach. Final speeds are 30 knots to 40 knots higher. Our piston and student pilots don’t know how to deal with turbines. The last thing we want at our airport is an incident that harms people, destroys assets and fuels anti-airport sentiment,” Hallick wrote.

Hallick’s email was obtained in an Open Records request by Middleton Area Good Neighbors (MAGN) and posted on its website Monday.

Leslie Hayner, of MAGN, said Hallick doesn’t share his safety concerns with the public in general.

“They know it’s a currently dangerous situation and what they’re proposing, the longer runway and more jets, is dangerous,” Hayner said in a phone interview.

As a remedy, Hallick suggested scheduling quarterly pilot training programs. 

“We should work to create the most knowledgeable, safest, courteous and respectful pilot populations on the planet. It all begins with the willingness to be better and attend recurrent training,” Hallick wrote Opitz.

Opitz forwarded Hallick’s email to Morey who on Monday said he didn’t share Hallick’s concerns.

“We train in our (flight) pattern when appropriate,” Morey stated in an email response for comment.

The training Hallick recommended is continuing at the airport, including traffic patterns, Morey wrote.

Halllick didn’t respond by phone or email requests for comment on his remarks.

In an emailed response for comment, Opitz wrote Tuesday that Hallick’s safety concerns were expressed shortly after being reappointed to the airport commission, and while the commission in August approved Hallick’s request for more pilot training, Opitz said he wasn’t aware of any evidence of pilots operating in an unsafe manner.

“Rich Morey advises me that safe operations in the traffic pattern are part of all FAA test standards…and that maintaining a consistent flight pattern is important at any airport,” Opitz wrote.

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