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      Jeff City Council schooled on airport

      It was something the airport people had wanted for some time....a face-to-face tutorial with the city council.

      Wednesday, they finally got it done.

      Faced with staff suggestions that Jefferson City Memorial Airport should be self-sustaining, council members visited there Wednesday morning to evaluate the situation first hand.

      They learned that, even with no commercial air traffic, the airport handles 30,000 take-offs and landings each year.

      "It's hard to believe," instructed Grant Shorthose of Jefferson City Flying Service, "But Jefferson City Memorial is traditionally the busiest airport in central Missouri."

      Shorthose want the council to understand that, while the city spends only a little over $300,000 a year to operate the airport, the facility provides, according to a MoDOT study, an economic benefit in the neighborhood of $11 million.

      Much of the air traffic is corporate, with executives traveling to the Capital City for meetings with state officials or their local outlets.

      The city spends about $40,000 to operate the control.

      Some people have questioned whether the tower is necessary....whether pilots themselves cannot keep their own distance from one another at a small airfield.

      Pilots say the corporate customers would say no.

      "Many of their insurance companies would not approve of their multimillion-dollar airplane coming into an uncontrolled field," cautioned Bob Morgan, a pilot for the Angel Flight program.

      The federal aviation administration thinks Memorial is worth an investment of federal tax dollars.

      The FAA provided 95 percent of the two and half million dollars needed to build a taxiway along the full length of the airport's 6,000 foot primary runway.

      "It was necessary," says airport manager Ron Craft, "Because, until that taxiway was built, nearly every airplane that landed at this airport or took off from this airport had to use one of our two runways for taxiing. And so, this was done as a runway safety issue."

      The local money for the taxiway came from the city's half-cent sales tax.

      Craft says the FAA wants to put a similar taxiway along the shorter cross runway in 2010.

      Craft estimates the total for that would be about two million dollars.