Residents were offered an update Dec. 5 on a plan that is expected to shape the Ohio State University Airport over the next 20 years.
"It's trying to figure out what the future is," said airport director Doug Hammon before the approximately 100 people who gathered in Hangar 1 to hear a presentation on the master-plan update.
The meeting served as the public kickoff to a long process that's already underway, said Kimberly Moss, a senior campus planner at Ohio State.
A fact sheet distributed at the gathering shows the plan update is not scheduled for completion until next fall.
"We want your input on the airport's strengths, weaknesses," said Marie Keister, the master of ceremonies from advertising and public relations firm MurphyEpson.
Keister said the Ohio State airport at 2160 W. Case Road in northwest Columbus is "one of the leading aviation facilities" in the United States and one of only three owned by what she termed "tier-one universities."
"There's a lot of community activity at the airport," she said. "It also contributes to the economic vitality of the area."
"It's really the airport's way of ensuring it continues to provide services, not only today but into the future," said John Baer, another member of the team providing the community update.
Baer is a representative of Woolpert, an architectural and engineering firm.
"Nobody knows exactly what the future is going to look like, but we do the best that we can," said Maria Muia, a master-plan consultant with Woolpert.
Airport improvements over the years have progressed with the assistance of Federal Aviation Administration grants, according to the fact sheet. As a recipient of FAA's Airport Improvement Program grants, Ohio State is required to comply with FAA design standards and assurances for 20 years beyond grant acceptance, according to the fact sheet.
Grant funding for the development of the master plan has included $785,430 from the federal government, $43,635 from the state and $43,635 from Ohio State, according to Hammon.
Although FAA officials don't dictate what will happen at the airport over the coming decades, Muia said, the agency does require the planning process to follow specific guidelines.
During a question-and-answer session, those in attendance asked about the preservation of green space, noise, drones and an old plan that calls for extending the northern runway.
"Drones are a very new part of our industry, but we know they are the future of our industry," Hammon said.
Don Scott Field was one of the first to allow drones to fly in manned airspace, he said.
"I'm not saying it won't happen, but I'm not sure of that yet," Muia said in response to the runway query. "It's too early in the process."
That process will be guided in part by a technical advisory committee that includes airport staff members, residents, representatives of the business community and officials from Dublin and Worthington, Keister said.
She said more public meetings would take place in the summer, and a page on the airport's website would include updates as the development moves along.
"We really value the input that we get from you all," Keister said. "It's invaluable to us and what we're doing here.
"We're seeking your input along the way and and at the end of the day, the plan we submit will include your input."