Area pilots and those who visit Tahlequah Municipal Airport should see some new additions by next summer.
Airport Manager Greg Blish said the facility is expected to see three new projects begin next spring: construction of a new run-up apron, and the introduction of additional navigation assistance through a lighted wind sock and runway end identifier lights, also called REIL lights.
Blish said the airport already has one run-up apron, and construction of a second will be a welcome addition.
“Some pilots have to do a series of engine checks and navigational checks before take-off, and at busy times, this will help,” said Blish.
Run-up aprons provide a space for aircraft pilots to do their checks while paving the way for other jets to continue on course and take flight.
Jets typically don’t do a run-up, Blish said, but smaller aircraft do.
“So if a trainer is giving a flight lesson and needs to do a series of checks, they can pull off onto the run-up pad. If a jet’s coming down the taxiway, they’re ready for take-off,” said Blish. “Fuel is money and time is money, so they’re ready to pass that aircraft, do their system checks and go out and access the runway. That’s basically what a run-up is – a big, asphalt pad.”
Blish said REIL lights and the lighted wind sock will help pilots on instrument flights.
“It kind of enables, during marginal weather, the pilot to see the runway and make a safe landing,” he said.
The three projects for the coming year are provided through federal funds. Blish said the airport receives $150,000 per year through a non-proprietary entitlement, provided because the facility houses more than 50 based aircraft.
“We’re allotted $150,000 a year and some years we bank that money; we hold back until we have enough to do the project, since you’ve got engineering costs, construction costs, and other costs that will be associated with a project,” he said.
He expects to see project work begin next April and finish up sometime in June, with no interruption to the airport’s daily operations.
“We’ve also improved the fueling system this year with a new fuel pump for aviation fuel,” said Blish. “Fuel’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through an outdoor pay terminal. We continue to offer services to the business aircraft fleet as well as the local and transient recreational pilots.”
Though a sluggish economy has led to some decrease in the amount of fuel sales at the airport this year, Blish said fuel sales are still important to the necessary growth of the Tahlequah area.
Aviation fuel is approximately $5.50 per gallon, while jet fuel rates just below $5 per gallon. The airport sold nearly $27,500 of fuel in September.
“The airport is still experiencing continued growth, even during a slowdown in the economy,” said Blish.
There are 54 based aircraft on the field, and Blish said support from the Tahlequah City Council has led to construction of three additional taxi lanes in the past year, which created 16 new hanger-lease spaces. Three large hangars have been built on-site in just the past six months, Blish said.
“We are fortunate that we completed an extension of the runway and taxiways, which enables us to serve the majority of business jet aircraft with a 5,001-foot runway and parallel taxiway system and new lighting,” said Blish.
Blish said the projects are all supported by the city mayor, city council, airport board members, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
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