Mayor outlines future for City Airport following FAA approval of new Layout Plan


Mayor outlines future for City Airport following FAA approval of new Layout Plan

  • City Airport now has its first approved Airport Layout Plan in 30 years, making it eligible for more than $100M in federal grants over next 10 years

  • Plans can now move forward for major capital investment including new hangars, control tower and taxiways, as well as return of Benjamin O. Davis Aerospace Technical High School

  • FAA approves decommissioning of Crosswinds Runway, which will free up 80 acres for airport-related development

DETROIT, Michigan - Detroit’s Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport (KDET) is poised to begin a massive transformation following FAA approval of the city’s first airport layout plan in 30 years, Mayor Mike Duggan announced today.

The approval, which follows nearly three years of drafting, community engagement and FAA review, now makes City Airport, as it is commonly known, eligible for an estimated $100 million in federal grants over the next 10 years. This will allow the airport to make transformational investment in the airport, including new hangars, a new control tower, improved taxiways and safety zone, new airport-related development opportunities, as well as the return of the Benjamin O. Davis Aerospace Technical High School to the airport grounds.

“City Airport has been an underutilized asset and in decline for generations,” said Mayor Duggan. “Less than a decade ago, the city’s emergency manager had considered selling our airport to pay off some of the city’s debts. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and today, thanks to the great work of our airport leadership team and partnership with the FAA and MDOT, City is about to see new investment and new life as a center of opportunity.”

Key highlights of the plan include:

  • Access to federal grant funding. The FAA approval unlocks more than $100 million in federal grant opportunities over the next 10 years. The City recently was awarded an initial grant of $111,000 from MDOT’s Aeronautics division for partial reimbursement of the cost of developing the airport layout plan.
  • New Aircraft Hangars. The City plans to build several new hangars at the airport that will include sufficient space for executive business aircraft, twin-engine craft, and smaller hangars for single engine planes. Hangars also will include community space for meetings and events. Construction on these new hangars will begin this year.
  • Return of Benjamin O. Davis Aerospace Technical High School. This school will return inside a renovated main airport terminal. This will bring this important technical school back to an appropriate location that will provide direct access to aviation operations and activity. Estimated opening date is 2025.
  • New Air Traffic Control Tower. This new tower will be fully funded by the FAA as part of the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Act. Site selection for the new tower will begin in early 2023, with design taking place in 2024. Construction complete is expected in early 2026.
  • Improved safety zone. The airport also will make safety improvements to the airfield, including the installation of a new Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) at both ends of the runway. This FAA-approved solution has been designed to compensate for the fact that the runway does not have the available real estate for standard 1,000-foot safety areas without impact the neighboring cemeteries.

Mini Take: For decades, the FAA has required the city to acquire property to the east of the airport (Boundaries: French to McNichols to Gilbo to Lynch) because the current airport footprint does not provide a sufficient safety zone according to federal standards. City officials recently met with resident in the “mini take” area to resume the land acquisition process. The process will address:

  • 17 occupied homes (7 owner occupied, 10 rentals)
  • 53 vacant properties                 

Property owners in the area are expected to begin receiving offers in the next month and city officials plan to have the acquisition process completed by Fall 2023. Here is the timeline:

  • Now – November 2022: Preliminary interviews, appraisals & reviews, relocation & acquisition surveys
  • November 2022: Fair Market Determination
  • November 2022 – January 2023: Prepare offers and relocation determination
  • December 2022 – January 2023: Property owners receive offers
  • January 2023 – August 2023: Negotiations & Relocations
  • Re-establishing onsite Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Services. In 2012, just prior to the city’s bankruptcy, Engine 20 at the airport was decommissioned and firefighting responsibilities for the airport shifted to a nearby fire house. Last year, the city completed a renovation of Engine 20 on the grounds of City Airport is training additional firefighters and is expected to be reactivated in the next year or two.

“This is a very exciting time for the airport and the City,” said Airport Director Jason Watt. “This marks the first time in 30 years that we have a plan that meets all Federal and State airport design standards and allows the airport to be redeveloped over the next 20 years. We are open for business and excited for the future.”

Councilmember Scott Benson, who represents the district surrounding the airport, embraced the plan to revitalize the facility to generate more jobs and economic activity in his district. "These improvements mean the airport will become more valuable to Detroit and the region, making it a greater asset now and for decades to come."

In the first half of the 20th Century, Detroit City Airport was the region’s primary airport for over 20 years. In 1922, city officials conducted a search for an airport site, eventually settling on a 263-acre location near Conner Creek on the city’s east side. Five years later, the Detroit City Airport Terminal was formally dedicated, with the first aircraft landing at the airport on October 14, 1927.

In 1929, the first hangar was erected and by the 1930s Detroit City Airport was the premiere airport in the Detroit area. It remained Detroit’s primary airport until 1947 when almost all airlines transitioned their flights to Willow Run Airport, followed by Wayne County Metropolitan Airport. Detroit City Airport transitioned into a center of pilot training and one of the most concentrated locations for private and corporate aviation in the country, though it still maintained some commercial flights until 2000. In 2003, City Airport was officially renamed Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport, after the city’s longest-serving mayor, who also was a Tuskegee Airman.

“Today, we were able to discuss the ability for the Coleman A. Young International Airport to receive multi-million-dollar FAA grants, and make it an economic engine for Detroit, which was my father’s dream,” said City Councilmember At-Large Coleman A Young, II. “It is because we have done the work that was needed to make this happen, under the Mayor’s leadership and the execution of Group Executive Brad Dick and Airport Director Jason Watt.”

Detroit City Airport remains home to many private and corporate jets. The airport saw an almost 40% increase in usage in 2017 with the increase in business downtown and the opening of Little Caesar’s Arena.

With the planned capital improvements, the airport is expected to generate additional take-offs and landings, without the need for a runway expansion. Because of the airport’s location next to Gethsemane Cemetery, the City of Detroit is unable to extend the primary runway safety zone to accommodate larger aircraft. With the recent growth of new forms of personal air transportation, the airport redevelopment could tap into that emerging market, as well.

“This is a long-awaited progress with the FAA for our airport as the Airport Department seeks State & Federal funding to help sustain the airport,” said Beverly Kindle-Walker, Executive Director of Friends of Detroit City Airport. “This administration is the first one since the Young Administration to make a serious effort to toward that end! Onward and upward!” To review the plan details, go to Detroit City Airport Layout Plan.