Synopsis

The Charlottesville Albemarle Airport’s (CHO) runway length of 6,001 feet imposes operational limitations on commercial service aircraft and has historically limited the ability of airlines to provide unrestricted air service to and from the airport to certain destinations year-round. The operational hurdles that airlines and some general aviation aircraft must overcome are runway length and high density altitude. To alleviate this issue it is necessary to extend the runway by 800 feet.

High density altitude conditions reduce an airplane’s performance because the engine is forced to take in less air to support combustion, therefore power is reduced. A jet engine has less mass of gases exiting the exhaust end so thrust is reduced; there are less molecules in the air, the lighter air exerts less force on the wings which result in reduced lift; reduced thrust and lift means more runway length is needed for takeoff.

Seat restrictions on regional jets during higher temperature is the primary operational issue. Airlines have been coping with the operational limitations imposed on the service by intentionally scheduling lower capacity to lower take-off weight, thereby lowering the market’s profit potential. The runway extension is critical to the longevity of commercial air service in the region because as prop-planes are being retired and taken out of service, the replacement regional jet requires additional runway length to operate without penalty.

The airfield consists of one runway and associated taxiways available for arriving and departing aircraft. CHO has the fourth shortest runway of the 205 U.S. airports that serve over 125,000 passengers. In 2010, CHO served 391,927 total passengers. The runway was extended to its present length of 6,001 feet in 1966. The airport started work on the master planning of the runway extension project in 2003. In August of 2010, CHO lost nonstop service to Detroit on Delta due to the inadequate runway length. Timing of the completion of the runway project is critical for both existing air service and new air service to serve the Central Virginia region.