view of mke looking north from the mke regional business park


Questions will be updated at various times to reflect both the current planning activities and input gathered during the planning process.

Why prepare a Master Plan Update?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires airports to maintain long-range plans for airport development so that airports make cost-effective facility and land use decisions that maintain a safe, secure, and efficient operating environment and that reflect local goals for the airport. This Master Plan Update will serve as a guide for managing and developing future facilities at MKE over the next two decades.

What are the main products of MKE's Master Plan Update?

Products of the planning process will include:

  • Airport long-range goals
  • Inventory of existing airport conditions and performance
  • Forecast of passenger, cargo, and aircraft demand
  • Future development concepts
  • Recommended 2040 development plan (known as “Airport Layout Plan”)

What is the purpose of the facilities inventory?

Airport planners conduct a facilities inventory to understand the existing capabilities of the Airport. This includes the types of facilities that are available and where they are located. Typically, planners categorize the inventory into airside (airfield and airspace), terminal, landside (passenger terminals and access facilities), general aviation, cargo, and support facilities (utilities, maintenance, emergency response facilities, and FAA facilities). Operational characteristics of the Airport are also evaluated during this step.

How are the aviation activity forecasts prepared and why are they important?

Forecasts of future activity (sometimes called “demand forecasts”) are prepared by reviewing historical trends and using a combination of statistical and economic modeling and professional judgment. For example, evaluating the past trends in passenger activity growth and considering the corresponding economic conditions can yield important insights. However, when projecting changes in airline service (for example, new international service), past trends are less helpful than professional judgment based on an understanding of the airline industry marketplace. Demand forecasts also consider identified industry trends (e.g., changes in average aircraft fleets/sizes).

Activity forecasts are important because the Airport must be able to meet aviation needs in the future and to provide a safe and efficient operating environment and therefore must provide the right types, configurations, and sizes of facilities as appropriate. These demand forecasts are used to establish the timing and need for future facilities.

What are the significant influences on the MKE forecast?

The MKE forecast is influenced by multiple factors. The primary driver of air travel demand is regional and national economic performance. Because passengers at MKE are primarily Origin and Destination (O&D), in other words beginning or ending their journey at MKE, both business and leisure travelers are necessary to support and expand air service.

The Airport’s role within an airline’s route network is also an important consideration. Some airlines operate hub and spoke networks where service to and from MKE will be primarily focused on those hubs, while other airlines operate more point-to-point routes. As demand grows, airlines will typically expand service at MKE based upon passenger demand and how the Airport fits within their network.

What is the FAA’s role in the Master Plan Study forecast?

The FAA is responsible for the review and approval of the forecast of future activity. The agency’s review is intended to ensure that forecasts are realistic, are based on reasonable planning assumptions, consider current data, and are developed using an appropriate methodology.

The FAA is also responsible for the review and approval of the Airport Layout Plan to ensure that it presents a reasonable planning concept, that it complies with FAA planning standards, and that it follows published guidance.

What are the goals of the Master Plan Update?

The planning team will be working with Airport representatives to define goals to guide the development and evaluation of alternative concepts for meeting forecast demand and other planning activities. Initial discussions that relate to goal definition have been held; more conclusive discussions will follow the completion of the inventory efforts and the draft forecasts of activity. The defined goals will be published when they are available. Learn more.

Will the public have input on the Airport’s preferred long-range development plan?

Yes, alternative development concepts and the process used to evaluate them will be presented to stakeholder committees and at public meetings to provide the opportunity for feedback. This input will be considered during the planning process.

Who will pay for the implementation of the Master Plan Update?

Public funding sources which would help to pay for the projects identified in the Master Plan Update can include: FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants (derived from taxes on national and international travel, air cargo taxes, and aviation fuel), state funding, taxes on tenant property, passenger facility charges, other Airport user fees, and general airport revenue bonds. In addition, private funding may be used for the development of specific facilities. The Master Plan will include a financial analysis of the preferred alternative outlining a funding plan of the proposed development projects. Improvement projects at the Airport will not be funded with property tax dollars.

Will aircraft noise and other potential environmental impacts be considered in the Master Plan Update?

Yes, potential environmental consequences associated with long-range development at MKE will be identified and considered as concepts are formed and evaluated. Efforts are made to avoid and minimize environmental consequences as the Airport’s future development is defined. Additionally, the anticipated environmental effects associated with the recommended development plan will be explored and documented in the Environmental Overview section of the Master Plan report. As specific development actions (i.e., individual projects) are initiated, an evaluation of associated environmental consequences will be made as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Also, a current noise footprint, reflecting an analysis of noise associated with the existing airfield, will be modeled to create a baseline for comparison of future aircraft noise changes as activity increases over the next decade.

How is the Master Plan Update addressing aircraft noise? Will the master plan update address funding for noise mitigation?

Comparative aircraft noise impacts will be assessed as part of the master plan. Following selection of the preferred alternative, a comparative noise assessment will be completed utilizing the forecast of aviation activity as the basis for analysis. This noise assessment will compare the noise contours generated by use of the future airfield with the noise contours generated by the use of the existing airfield, considering the same number of aircraft operations. Aircraft noise is dependent on a number of factors including types of aircraft and aircraft engines, location and capabilities of runways, and Airport Traffic Control (ATC) flight patterns and procedures, among others. The master plan study will estimate the changes in noise exposure associated with the evolving airfield, signaling future environmental review that is anticipated to be needed when changes to the airfield are implemented. The FAA’s threshold for significance in noise exposure is an increase of 1.5 decibels or more.

Will the Master Plan Update address the integration of the Milwaukee Streetcar?

Options for mass transportation connectivity to the Airport is integral to the passenger journey. The Milwaukee Streetcar is a new and exciting development intended to increase connectivity in the downtown and surrounding areas. The master plan update will not preclude service by the Milwaukee Streetcar; however, additional detail about the Streetcar infrastructure, operation, and alignment would be needed before the Airport can plan for specific accommodation.

How are flight plans determined? Have flight plans changed recently?

The FAA Air Traffic Division works in conjunction with MKE Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) representatives and with surrounding airports to establish flight paths in the vicinity of MKE, prioritizing safety. Consideration is given to the influence of air traffic at surrounding airports and to the investments made in noise exposure mitigation in the vicinity of MKE. As aviation demand or other changes occur at the Airport, adjustments may be made to flight patterns for arriving and departing aircraft. Though there have been minor modifications made to flight tracks in recent years, these have been designed to accommodate other airspace uses in the region as well as make arrival and departures more efficient and consistent with completed noise mitigation investments.

How can I stay informed about project developments, milestones, and meetings?

The Airport and master plan team provide a website to support communication of master plan activities: The master planning process includes a series of four public information open house sessions, scheduled as project milestones are reached and announced on the project website and via MKE social media accounts. Additionally, announcements are run in the newspaper and mailings made to 30,000 addresses in the vicinity of MKE. Please check the website for upcoming master plan activities.

Will environmental consequences of airport development be addressed in the master plan update?

An overview of potential environmental consequences will be made as part of the master plan process. Environmental constraints are considered in the development of alternatives and are assessed in more detail once a preferred development framework is adopted. The environmental overview considers elements such as noise, effects on wildlife, floodplains, waterways, and stormwater impacts, among others.

Will the proposed alternatives affect air traffic in the vicinity of the Airport?

The control of air traffic is the responsibility of the FAA and is coordinated among airports in the region to prioritize safety and seek operational efficiencies. The number of runways available to accommodate air traffic in the future will influence FAA’s air traffic management as demand for aircraft arrivals and departures grows. The size and type of aircraft and the potential for interaction among diverse aircraft types influences the FAA’s management of the MKE airspace.

Do the proposed alternatives result in the traveling public paying more to fly to/from MKE?

In general, the traveling public will not notice a notable increase in costs. Development at the Airport can be paid for using several funding mechanisms to cover a portion of the costs including FAA AIP grants (derived from taxes on national and international travel, air cargo, and aviation fuel),taxes on tenant property, passenger facility charges, other Airport user fees, and general airport revenue bonds. Private funding may support the development of specific facilities. Improvements at the Airport will not be funded with property tax dollars.

When will future development at the Airport begin?

The need for and timing of additional facilities and infrastructure depends on multiple factors including passenger and aircraft demand, technology evolution, FAA procedures, age and condition of facilities, and related considerations. As aviation activity increases, MKE will adapt to those changes by implementing necessary projects. Other factors such as private investment in facilities (e.g., hangars) can influence the location and types of facilities available to passengers and airport tenants. The master plan study will include an implementation plan that seeks to align development with specific triggers such as demand that exceeds capacity, a change in regulations, tenant/airline actions, environmental considerations, facility condition and maintenance needs, and related factors. In general, development will occur when triggered, supported by funding availability.

How will the alternatives affect my ability to get to and from the Airport?

The master plan study will continue to accommodate airport access for all users, operators, and tenants. Enhancements in the access network will be made as demand dictates and as other facility modifications may occur. The County will accommodate future MKE access modes as links to the Airport emerge.

How will my Airport experience change as these projects are implemented?

The master plan study provides a development framework that allows the Airport to adapt to change and growth in a flexible and scalable manner. This is done for several reasons but paramount to minimize impacts to the traveling public during project construction while still accommodating new and different types of development at MKE. Passengers and community members can expect to see modified or new facilities at the Airport in coming years as the County invests in providing a safe and efficient operating environment in modernized facilities that meets the needs of passengers and tenants.

Will the proposed alternatives affect me as a property owner near the Airport?

Property owners near the Airport may see noticeable development taking place on Airport-owned land, however, potential impacts to surrounding property will considered as projects are implemented with a goal of recognizing opportunities for enhancing the sustainability, resiliency, and environmental sensitivity of airport operations and development. Airport facilities will evolve during the next twenty years as community development occurs, travel demand increases, and air service enhancements are realized. The master plan update is focused on defining a long-range development plan that reflects MKE’s role in the community and recognizes diversity in community stakeholder priorities.

What is the proposed timeline for this development?

The master plan update covers a 22-year planning horizon (2018 – 2040), with consideration given to specific improvements that would be needed at interim 5- and 10-year horizons. This provides a short-, medium-, and long-term determination of airport needs and allows changes to be implemented in an organized and incremental manner.

How will the Airport utilize existing, undeveloped property to meet the 2040 demand?

As aviation demand increases over time, the Airport will seek to utilize existing available or open development areas under County ownership to meet the need for enhanced or expanded facilities before property acquisition is considered. Among the master plan goals that the Airport has established is a focus on supporting aviation growth in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner through organized long-range development and consideration of non-aeronautical revenue generating opportunities. Accordingly, with respect to currently undeveloped County-owned airport property, the Airport will evaluate the potential use of undeveloped property in meeting goals established in the master plan.

Will the Airport be acquiring any residential land for aeronautical need within the 2040 planning horizon?

The Airport is not currently considering acquiring residential land for aviation or non-aviation related development to meet projected 2040 aeronautical requirements.

Will the Airport consider selling property not required for aviation facilities over the 2040 planning horizon?

The Airport is obligated to meet federal grant assurances that are a condition of accepting federal grant monies for airport development and property acquisition. Any property action considered as a result of the master planning process must conform to these grant assurances and would require additional analysis beyond the scope of the master plan study.

Is the Airport considering development plans from surrounding communities in its planning efforts?

The Airport seeks to both reflect and contribute to organized and productive land uses in the vicinity of the Airport. Stakeholder committees contributing to the master plan update include representatives from surrounding communities to provide input on the development plans and priorities of these communities.

Does the Airport require 5 runways to support future operations?

Through the master plan process, the Airport will seek to balance the capacity provided by the runway network with the forecast demand (both magnitude and characteristics) over the 2040 planning horizon. Current activity forecasts through 2040 do not reflect a need for five runways at MKE.

Will existing tenant facilities be relocated on the airport?

Over the planning horizon it is possible that some facilities may require relocation to consolidate similar/related types of operations and activities or to make effective use of existing facilities and developable areas within the Airport boundary. As demand increases over time, the Airport will seek to best utilize space and facilities to meet the long-term demand needs of all airport users.

How does the Airport select a final development framework to accommodate long-term demand?

An organized and documented process is used to initially screen development alternatives to define a shortlist of candidate alternatives, and subsequently to evaluate in greater detail (qualitatively and quantitatively) the shortlisted alternatives. Ultimately, a preferred alternative is identified. Following identification, the preferred alternative is refined to mitigate weaknesses that may be identified in the evaluation process and to maximize the alternative’s alignment with the master plan goals. The alternatives evaluation process and results are included in the final technical documentation.

What factors influence the number of runways required over the planning horizon?

Multiple factors influence airfield capacity, which is the driver for the number of runways required to meeting demand. Examples of relevant factors include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Safety
  • Operational flexibility and redundancy
  • Forecast activity
  • Aircraft operations (demand) characteristics
  • Financial and funding considerations
  • Airfield circulation complexity
  • Ultimate (post-2040) demand and capacity

What factors will be considered in identifying the runways to remain in the long-term development plan?

The identification of the future airfield (runway) network will reflect consideration of airfield safety, airfield capacity, environmental constraints, operational flexibility and efficiency, financial implications, complexity of implementation, and development opportunities, among other factors.

Why are roadway modifications required as part of the long-term development plan?

Conceptual modifications and realignments to the roadway network focus on resolving identified or predicted deficiencies, such as limited vehicle weave distances and sight lines, enhancing capacity to accommodate forecast increases in demand (vehicle traffic), enhancing wayfinding for drivers, supporting revisions to the curbside environment in front of the terminal, and accommodating additional development in the vicinity of the terminal core.