airportA plan to add 600 feet to the runway at Dallas Executive Airport drew criticism from neighbors after a briefing in which City Council members were told the improvement would allow for heavier aircraft.

But city staff downplayed that point at a meeting with neighbors Thursday.

The airport wants to increase traffic, but it will never become a commercial airport, the city’s director of aviation, Mark Duebner, told neighbors.

“We’re going to be the same type of airport we’ve always been,” Duebner says. “We’re not going to get any heavier aircraft.”

The heaviest plane allowed at Dallas Executive it the Gulfstream IV, about 90,000 pounds, and that won’t change, he says.

The runway at the former Red Bird Airport has worn thin, Duebner says. In spots near where the airport’s two landing strips meet, the pavement is as thin as 5 inches, he says. The airport’s staff loses sleep, he says, because the asphalt could fail and cause an accident.

So the city is pitching in $3.5 million on a $35-million Texas Department of Transportation project to fix the runways, including the 600-foot extension. The runway extension allows for a greater “runway protection zone” on the side of the airport that is nearer Hampton Road, Duebner says. The extra 600 feet to taxi at the end of the runway allows pilots a little more wiggle room at the beginning of the runway when landing, he says.

Traffic has decreased at all of the region’s general aviation airports since the economic downturn in 2008, Duebner says. More than 146,000 planes came through Dallas Executive in 2007, compared with about 56,000 last year. About 150 aircraft land at Dallas Executive every day.

Construction is expected to start in June on the center of the runway, and traffic will decrease dramatically while the two-year runway project is underway. Work on the runway extension is expected to start in December 2016.