Flight Traffic Continues to Fall at Burke Airport, Down 13% Since Last Year

click to enlarge Flight Traffic Continues to Fall at Burke Airport, Down 13% Since Last Year
Photos by Aerial Agents

Amid a bunch of headlines at Hopkins — the 5,000-gallon fuel spill this week, two city officials bypassing security to retrieve a laptop, and the rollback of trans-Atlantic flight services from WOW and Icelandair — one other bit of airport news has stayed beneath the radar.

Burke Lakefront Airport, which sits on 450 acres of prime waterfront land downtown, and which has been going down in usage for nearly 20 years, is going down further this year. Through the end of September this year, takeoffs and landing at Burke are down 13% over the same time period in 2017, which will likely make this year the biggest drop in aero use at Burke in the past decade.

For those airport watchers keeping score at home, Burke had 30,994 flights from January through September in 2017, and 26,911 flights from that same period this year, according to the FAA. That will likely bring Burke down around 32,000 for the year (down from 38,000 last year); by comparison, it had about 100,000 takeoffs and landings in 2000.

Scene wrote about the fallacy of at least not looking at the closing Burke in April, but few in city hall are listening. The attitude has largely been that, “The airport has been there a long time, so why think about closing it?”

But the crazy thought that prime property downtown – on Lake Erie, which is now thought of more of an asset than an industrial toilet — might be better used for something other than a landing strip for fewer and fewer planes is gaining some ground among the younger population. Especially when Burke’s use has been going down consistently during their lifetime.

But this old adage seems more applicable now than ever at city hall: “Time flies when you aren’t paying attention.”

Some are. "One of the biggest challenges Cleveland faces," longtime Cleveland city planner Hunter Morrison said in the Scene story last spring, "is that it has to resize its oversized infrastructure. What to do with Burke airport is a part of that challenge."

He’s been saying that for a long time. In 2010, PD columnist Brent Larkin quoted Morrison as saying Cleveland needs "a regionwide assessment of our entire regional air service capacity and seek to rebalance the system in a way that allows Cleveland to repurpose the irreplaceable Burke land for an alternative use."

Morrison then added, "Cleveland seems to keep chewing on the same bone."

He’s got that right. But there's not much meat on it anymore.