Organization against repurposing Detroit airport

The Coleman A. Young International Airport Education Association was created earlier this year with the goal of educating the public on the importance of the Detroit airport, a facility city council wants to repurpose for non-aviation use.

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The association is a coalition of stakeholders and airport-based businesses. Members include Friends of Detroit City Airport Group, Civil Air Patrol, Black Pilots of America, Tuskegee Airmen and Museum, and Air Eagle.

The airport, whose designation is DET, handled more than 42,000 operations last year and is the eighth busiest towered airport in Michigan. The airport, however, was hit hard during the recession.

The association has been attending city council meetings since summer and has participated in community outreach projects.

“There was a lack of understanding about the airport’s value, and that’s not a situation unique to DET,” Michael Zabkiewicz, Air Eagle general manager and chief pilot, said. “Every airport is at risk, and we hope ours will ultimately be given the resources necessary to undergo a complete revitalization.”

The airport is eligible for $24.3 million in Federal Aviation Administration and other federal funding that could be used to offset the cost of improvements, including the $3.5 million needed to renovate Runway 15/33.

The association’s efforts have been applauded by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

“This group has taken on a huge challenge, and has done an amazing job with coordinating their efforts in just a matter of months,” NBAA Central Region Representative Bob Quinn said. “DET is one of the city’s greatest assets, and it’s an incredibly vital tool as Detroit seeks to attract high-tech businesses that need quick access.”