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News Release

For immediate use

July 11, 2006 -- No. 338

Airport runway to close temporarily for safety improvement, repair work

CHAPEL HILL - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will close the Horace Williams Airport runway in late July to continue making planned safety improvements and repairs.

The airport is currently scheduled to close the runway for use on July 24 and reopen Aug. 14 to meet Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements. The work includes effectively shortening the runway length by an additional 220 feet following a tree removal project. Other improvements include upgrading runway lighting and installing a new slope indicator system, which helps guide pilots during landing. Preliminary electrical work began at the airport in mid-June but has not adversely affected operations.

University and airport officials have worked closely in recent months on the closure with counterparts at Medical Air Operations, which serves the Area Health Education Centers Program, to coordinate details about the runway closure. AHEC flights will occur at Raleigh-Durham (RDU) International Airport General Aviation when the Horace Williams runway is unavailable. The airport also notified airplane users based at Horace Williams.

The current safety improvements follow up work including a major tree removal project begun last October to comply with FAA rules.

UNC removed trees that had grown too high in the runway approach slope at the east and west ends of the runway and announced plans to repair the runway lighting system. The university took similar steps with trees in 1998 and in recent years cut select trees periodically to comply with FAA requirements.

Last fall's removal involved selectively cutting some pines and hardwood trees on about seven acres. To avoid cutting any trees on private property, the university began taking steps to shorten the runway length by another 220 feet.

The airport office will remain open during this period and staff will continue to work normal hours. Airport officials will follow FAA requirements to light and barricade the runway and taxiway during the closure period.

University officials have reiterated their commitment to provide AHEC and Medical Air Operations with a safe airport as long as Horace Williams remains open. UNC plans to eventually relocate Medical Air Operations to RDU.

In May 2005, UNC pledged to keep the airport open until site work for Carolina North begins. The public-use airport owned by UNC has operated since the 1940s. Carolina North is a new campus envisioned for discovery and innovation on a nearly 1,000-acre tract owned by UNC that includes the airport.

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Contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593, mike_mcfarland@unc.edu