Airport expansion on the horizon?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Jason E. Silvers
2969046-M.jpgPictured is the south end of the runway of the Fort Scott Municipal Airport. A proposal to expand the runway is currently in the preliminary stages.
Jason E. Silvers

Continued growth is on the horizon for the Fort Scott Municipal Airport.
The airport has recently undergone some improvements and there are others on the slate in the coming years. In recent months, city officials learned of an economic development proposal that calls for new businesses at the airport, as well as an expansion and extension of the airport runway.
One recent project involved rehabilitation of the concrete apron near the fuel system at the airport. That project, at a cost of about $690,000, was funded by a 90-10 matching grant that included Kansas Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration money and city funds. It involved rebuilding concrete on the apron ramp area.
Another project involved replacement of the airport’s Automated Weather Observation System. It was funded by a 90-10 matching grant with KDOT. Project are required to meet FAA requirements and are dependent on available funding, Airport Manager Kenny Howard said.
“It will benefit pilots,” he said of the new AWOS system. “They will have true weather right on the field.”
Aaron Phillips, a local spray plane pilot, has plans to build an additional hangar next to his current hangar at the airport. The new building will be used for storage of supplies and built at “no cost to the city,” Howard said.
Howard said a project to expand the runway an additional 2,500 feet and widen it an extra 12 feet on each side is in the “preliminary planning stages.” He said city officials planned to have a telephone conference within the next 30 days with the engineering design firm of Olsson and Associates, the city’s new airport consultant, to discuss the project. There is also a plan to meet soon with FAA representatives about the airport’s layout plan.
“So we can come to them with a sound plan,” Howard said.
The proposal for the runway extension includes topographic surveys and drillings, as well as an aeronautical survey being done by Olsson and Associates. The surveys are part of an environmental assessment that must be done prior to the project. The surveys have been funded by city funds and “some private funding,” Director of Economic Development Rachel Pruitt said.
“The surveys have to be done to see if we can even extend the runway,” Pruitt said.
City commissioners approved a master agreement and work orders for the surveys with Olsson and Associates in August.
City officials have been searching and applying for various state and federal grants, as well as other financing options that can be used to help fund projects.
“We’re trying to do it without raising any taxes,” Howard said.
Howard said the airport must have 500 operations – takeoffs and landings – per year “to get the runway expansion.”
Pruitt said so far, city officials have applied for two state grants – one through the KDOT Aviation division and another through KDOT economic development.
“We’re also applying for a federal grant for the whole project,” she said. “This a really in-depth type of project.”
The runway expansion is part of an economic development proposal that also involves bringing a new jet repair station to the airport. Spectra Jet, Inc., a certified aircraft repair station based in Springfield, Ohio, has come to Fort Scott as part of its expansion. After researching airports, Pruitt said the city wanted to take advantage of an “MRO” (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) opportunity.
Part of the proposal with Spectra Jet is to enlarge the runway, which is currently 4,400-feet-by-75 feet. It would need to be expanded to 6,100-feet-by-100-feet for this project. The company performs mechanical work on Lear and Challenger jets. The runway expansion is needed to house those models of aircraft.
Howard said Spectra Jet has already brought some equipment in to the airport but no personnel as of yet. The proposal is for Spectra Jet to relocate eight jet engine mechanics here.
Pruitt said preliminary estimates show the proposal to extend the runway would cost about $4.3 million, while the widening of the runway would cost about $3.7 million.