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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK The interior of the terminal at the Springdale Municipal Airport.

Municipal airports in Northwest Arkansas are spending millions of dollars combined on upgrades officials said are needed to attract more airplanes and pilots to the region.

Airport facilities are more attractive when they are upgraded, said Johnny Roscoe, director of Fayetteville Executive Airport. It could attract more people to an airport and cause them to spend time and money in the region.

Municipal airports

Fayetteville Executive Airport

• 4500 S. School Ave., Suite F

Springdale Municipal Airport

• 802 Airport Road

Rogers Municipal Airport

• West Airport Drive

Bentonville Municipal Airport

• 2500 S.W. Aviation St.

Source: Staff report

"Then the word gets around," he said. "The aviation community talks."

Airports are important economic tools for their surrounding communities, said Jerry Chism, director of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics. Many businesses consider good airports as a factor in deciding where to be located.

"There is no case where an airport in a community is not a valuable asset," he said.

Many airport upgrades are needed to help accommodate growth and demand, said David Krutsch, Rogers Municipal Airport manager. Growth in Northwest Arkansas will create growth in air transportation, he said.

Runway and taxiway maintenance are common upgrades for municipal airports across the nation, Chism said. Hangar development and "fuel farm" development are also common.

Washington County

Wyman Morgan, Springdale director of finance and administration, said he hopes upgrades at Springdale Municipal Airport will help attract more corporations to the city.

A new access road will be finished near the end of March, Morgan said.

The road will be built south of the entrance to avoid traffic issues during drop off and pick up times at nearby Jones Elementary School. The new street will come off Powell Street, wind behind a couple businesses and end in a one-way loop near the entrance to the airport terminal.

The total project cost is about $800,000, Morgan said. A Federal Aviation Administration grant will pay for 90 percent. Once the project is completed, officials will apply for a grant from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics to cover the remaining 10 percent.

Officials finished enclosing an open bay hangar in February, Morgan said. The structure was open on all four sides to birds and weather before the construction.

"It was basically just a roof," he said.

An Aeronautics Department grant paid for $150,000 of the project, Morgan said. The remaining $173,000 came from the city's Capital Improvements Program. Officials are also adding more lights to the hangar's interior, which should be finished soon.

Officials are planning to spend $1 million to renovate the terminal, Morgan said. It will be modernized, repainted and the restrooms will be updated to allow easier access for disabled people. An outdoor deck for the restaurant is also possible if there's enough money.

Officials planned to meet Friday to negotiate a contract for a construction manager, Morgan said. They plan to work with the manager to find out how much can be done within their budget.

They plan to use that information to apply for another grant from the Aeronautics Department, Morgan said. They will also ask the City Council for matching funds, which will most likely come from the Capital Improvements Program.

Construction won't begin for at least 90 days, Morgan said. He said he hopes the project can be completed as soon as possible.

A runway extension, three to four years away, is the most distant project in Springdale officials sights, Morgan said. They want to extend the runway by a little more than 400 feet on the southern end. The upgrade could mean more planes landing in Springdale, more fuel sales and more awareness of the city.

Officials are working with the FAA to gain possible funding for the extension, Morgan said.

The next project planned for Fayetteville Executive Airport is for apron rehabilitation, Roscoe said. The apron is a large piece of concrete near the terminal where airplanes are parked.

There is no timeline or budget yet for the project, but officials intend to apply for a grant from the FAA to cover 90 percent of the cost, Roscoe said. They would also like to widen and extend the taxiways.

Benton County

Upgrades at Rogers Municipal Airport are to bring the facilities up to federal standards, Krutsch said. Officials are working to replace paved areas built between the late 1980s and the early 1990s.

Krutsch described the pavement as "old and dilapidated." He also said the paved areas were built for smaller airplanes and need to be upgraded to suit larger ones.

Work on the taxiways was completed a few years ago, Krutsch said. They're now working on the first of two phases for reconstructing the aprons.

The first phase will cost $3.6 million, 90 percent of which will be paid through a FAA grant, Krutsch said. They plan to apply for a grant from the Aeronautics Department to cover the remaining 10 percent.

Krutsch said he hopes for the first phase to be completed by the end of 2015. There isn't yet a timeline or budget for the second phase.

Officials in Rogers are also planning to renovate the airport's runway, Krutsch said. It has some drainage and cracking issues, most of which is age related. They hope to get bids on the project in 2016.

They also want to evaluate the possibility of a runway extension, Krutsch said. They will be studying the feasibility and looking into requirements starting in late 2015 or early 2016.

Officials with Bentonville Municipal Airport are updating the master plan, said Ben Peters, airport manager. The plan should be completed late this fall and be used to assess upgrades.

The airport will soon finish a runway safety area project to upgrade the smooth, hard and rough surface used if an airplane leaves the pavement, Peters said. The area was too steep and needed to be flatter.

The project cost is about $600,000, Peters said. They are using a FAA grant to pay for 90 percent of the project and a grant from the Aeronatics Department to cover the remaining 10 percent.

Officials are also looking to move some power poles obstructing the flight approach path, Peters said. There is 345 feet of runway beyond the threshold they can't use because of the poles. The runway will increase to 4,426 feet long when the poles are moved this year.

"Having a little bit more runway will help," Peters said.

A longer runway could attract more airplanes to land at the airport, Peters said. Some companies require their planes to land on runways at least 5,000 feet long.

The project will cost an estimated $80,000, Peters said. They anticipate receiving federal and state grants to pay for the project.

They would also like to build a turf runway parallel to the current one, Peters said. This type of runway could increase tourism, because it's a safer option for landing historic aircraft.

A private investor plans to pay for the project, Peters said. He didn't want to name the investor and said there isn't yet a cost estimate. They hope to open the runway for use in 2017.

NW News on 03/02/2015

Print Headline: Northwest Arkansas municipal airports plan upgrades

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