The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Excelsior Springs Standard.
The city manager's comments and mine continued.
“The greatest expense is to increase the length and width of the runway by 2,000 LF in length and 28 feet in width and to construct a full parallel taxiway which represents over $7 million of the needed improvements; other improvements included $580,000 to install jet-A fuel system, $450,000 for lighting improvements and navigational aids and several other smaller projects.”
To extend our runway north in any appreciable amount it would have to cross Highway 10. I don't think the state would re-route the highway to accommodate a runway extension. And then there are the landowners just across the highway from the airport. Does anyone think they'd agree to have a runway on their property? I don't.
Extend the runway south? If anyone ever seriously suggests extending a runway across the Excelsior Springs Golf Course many voices will be heard in opposition to that idea, mine included. You don't destroy any portion of a beautiful golf course for the sake of having a longer runway.
As an aside here, when the Regional airport at Mosby became operational in 1996, it had a 4,000' north-south runway. A few years later that runway was extended by 1,504'. The reason given was that the longer runway would attract a greater variety of aircraft. If I'm not mistaken the minimum recommended runway length for business jets is 5,500' or thereabouts. The additional length provides those jets with a greater margin of safety.
When all is said and done, it's questionable that Excelsior's runway could ever be lengthened an additional 2,000' and certainly not the extra 1,500' necessary for the safety of business jets. The runway will never be lengthened. $8.3 million will never be spent on improvements. The Business classification of the airport is no longer needed. I think the city manager knows this and it makes me wonder why she even brings up these enormous costs for something that isn't going to happen anyway.
Interesting to note here, according to the minutes of the May 4, 2016, Airport Board meeting, the Mid America Regional Council (MARC) surveyed the Excelsior Springs Airport (specific date not given) and rated us as a commuter-based airport. The word 'commuter' is probably a typo because MARC designates airports as being either Commercial, Regional, Business or Community.
Our airport is and always has been a community airport. It's an integral part of Excelsior Springs, it can provide an invaluable service and it can still be an important link in Excelsior's economic vitality. If the city manager feels differently about this then I hope she will tell us all why.
“The City of Excelsior Springs has continued to support aviation enthusiasts by acting on proposals to attract business needed to sustain the airport.”
What specific proposals have been acted on recently that has benefited the Excelsior Springs Memorial Airport and the pilots who use it?
“Less than 10 years ago the City spent over $400,000 to resurface the runway expanding the life of the airfield by 20 years, installed a new fuel system believing the investment would be self-supporting.”
The runway was not resurfaced; it was completely replaced. The cost of the new runway was probably closer to $500,000. I think it was MoDOT grant money, not the city's, that covered about $450,000. The cost to the city (taxpayers), roughly $50,000. The job was completed about 3 years, 5 months ago.
I believe one of the stipulations of the agreement was that once the project was completed the runway had to remain in service for a period of 20 years (expanding the life of the airfield). If for any reason the runway does not stay in service then a certain amount of that grant money goes back to MoDOT. For argument's sake, let's say the runway remains in use for 10 years and then the city closes the airport, runway included. The city could owe MoDOT around $225,000. Close the airport in 5 years and the city might owe as much as $337,000. On the other hand, the city could save about $22,500 a year for every year the airport stays open and operational.
Prior to February 2010 fuel revenues were being lost because there was no one at the airport on a regular basis to pump fuel and collect the money. I don't know how much thought was given to the self-supporting investment mentioned but one thing was clear. A system allowing 24/7/365, 'pay-at-the-pump' service was needed. I'm assuming the job was put out for bid and ultimately the low bidder was selected. It should be noted here that, to the best of my knowledge, no member (except for maybe one) of the current city council or the city manager had any involvement in the selection of the bidder. Installation of the new pump was finished on or about February 18, 2010.
“We have sought the input of all licensed pilots in the area to determine the interest in the construction of new hangars with no response.”
According to the minutes of the Airport Board meeting on August 2, 2017, a board member asks the city manager if any feedback concerning the construction of new hangars had been received. She said, "they had one reply.” Another board member said, “We added two more names to the hangar list.” The number of pilots expressing an interest in having hangar space had gone up to 11. More on our airport to come.