Mayor: Moving dirt at airport a good sign

Published 6:39 pm Thursday, December 9, 2010

Looking at the piles of dirt resting on the home of the future expanded runway at the Troy Municipal Airport, it may be hard for many to envision airplanes landing. Not for Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

Lunsford, who considers himself somewhat of an aircraft enthusiast, can fully visualize the “6,500-foot runway, fully instrumentalized.” Maybe perhaps even more than airplanes coming in for landing, Lunsford can envision the benefits an expanded runway will bring the city of Troy.

“We have been talking to businesses about the expansion, but now that we have dirt moving around, we have proof to show them,” Lunsford said.

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And Lunsford’s not the only one eager to see the growth.

Trent Crawford, manager of Pike Aviation, said the runway expansion will be “highly” beneficial to the City of Troy.

“When you get a new business, the first place they come is to the airport,” Crawford said. “If they have an airplane, the more runway you can have, the better.”

The current phase of construction involves moving dirt and grass to where the runway will expand. Lunsford said by February 2011, that portion will be complete. Lunsford hopes by April the last two phases of construction will begin, which will include paving the runway and planting grass and also installing a new lighting system.

Once the project reaches completion, it is expected to be beneficial to existing businesses and industries.

“We have existing users of the airport that have to leave with restricted flights, meaning they can’t leave with full loads and full tanks of fuel. In making trips to their destinations, they have to stop somewhere between and refuel, and this will be very beneficial to these flights,” Lunsford said. “There will also be businesses whose processes will be improved by the fact we can get larger aircraft in and out of the Troy Airport.”

One example, Crawford said, could be Troy University utilizing the facility for sports teams.

“The basketball teams fly out of the airport now, but the football team is too big to take on passengers. When we get the extension they will be able to fly out of Troy,” Crawford said.

Another hope for the city’s airport is the expansion will make room for more jets to be stored at the facility.

“We even want to build more hangers to encourage jets to move their base here,” Lunsford said.

Currently, Crawford said there are five hangers at the airport with around 40 planes stored regularly. The airplane storage is a source of revenue for the airport.

Crawford said while there may not be an increase in traffic, there will be an impact in the size of traffic the expansion will bring.

That’s something military personnel at the Instrument Landing System are prepared to handle.

“We won’t have to have more personnel, but it is nice to have this here especially when inclement weather comes in,” said Sgt. Gary Bush, training supervisor for the Troy towers. Bush said the military personnel who work in the ILS average 150 to 200 movements per day, including 25 to 30 military aircraft and five to 10 civilian flights.

Also in the expansion, which is funded 95 percent by the Federal Aviation Administration, 2.5 percent by the state and 2.5 percent by the city, will bring improvements to County Road 1151, near where the runway ends.

County Engineer Russell Oliver said the project will require workers to lower the road, and it will be left in slightly better shape than originally found.

Workers will reshape the dirt road and surface it with crushed stone.