Philadelphia airport's $5.2B expansion plan cleared by FAA

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A $5.2 billion capacity enhancement plan aimed at helping Philadelphia International airport meet current and future aviation demand has been approved by the US FAA.

The project, which will take approximately 13 years to complete, calls for the construction of a fifth runway, and the redesign of a more efficient taxiway system to connect the runways, says the FAA in a 'record of decision' on the environmental impact statement for Philadelphia's enhancement programme.

The new Runway 9R-27L, to be located 488m (1,600ft) south of Runway 9C-27C, will be 2,774m long by 45.7m wide and will serve primarily as a departure runway in west flow and an arrival runway in east flow. It will have an engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) installed on its west end to reduce impacts to the Delaware River.

"Constructing this runway will affect the Delaware River. The approach lighting systems for proposed Runways 9R and 9L will be upgraded to meet CAT II/III approach requirements. The new approach light system for Runway 9R will be in the Delaware River, extending 1,700ft from the limit of fill, and will be a pile-supported structure," says the FAA.

Philadelphia's Runway 8-26 will be extended 609m to the east, for a total length of 2,133m, and its eastern arrival threshold will be raised by approximately 16.7m in order to clear obstructions.

Runway 9R-27L will be extended to the east by 457m, to a total length of 3,657m. This runway will be renamed Runway 9C-27C, and will function primarily as an arrival runway during west flow operations and a departure runway during east flow, says the FAA.

Among a raft of other planned changes to the airport, the enhancement scheme will upgrade and reconfigure the existing terminal complex in its existing location; enlarge the existing parking garages; and relocate or expand many of the other airport facilities, including cargo, general aviation, maintenance, fuel, training facilities, and de-icing facilities.

The FAA's air traffic control tower will also be relocated. And the UPS facility south of the airport will be relocated to a new site.

"The project will accommodate all forecasted operations with annualized average delays of 5.2min in 2025 and 8.4min in 2030," says the FAA, which believes that "significant environmental impacts can be avoided" with mitigation.

US Airways is Philadelphia's main inhabitant, with the Star Alliance member using the facility as its primary international hub. However, the carrier has been somewhat critical of the project. The Philadelphia Inquirier reports US Airways told the airport that while it supports "the concept of growth and long-term planning" at Philadelphia, it believes that premature construction of a new runway will make the facility "a less economically viable airport and US Airways a less economically viable airline".