Longer runway to open any day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Officials expect the runway extension at the Shelby County Airport to open any day now.

Work was expected to be completed by the end of January, according to Kevin Lee, fixed base operator at the airport, but progress was pushed back due to the weather.

&uot;There are a few little thing left to tie up,&uot; Lee said. &uot;Then they’ll open it up.&uot;

With the extension, the runway goes from 4,400 to 5,002 feet. During the construction, however, usable runway was cut to only 3,900.

Lee said every day he has planes radio in asking if the extension is complete.

&uot;A lot of corporate-type aircraft must have 5,000 feet of runway to land,&uot; Lee said.

Lee said after the extension opens, the airport should begin to see more traffic.

&uot;Hopefully, about six months after it gets done, we’ll see a big difference,&uot; he said, indicating a 30 percent drop in revenue since the extension began.

Todd McDonald of the county Department of Development Services said the airport extension should open up business opportunities for Shelby County.

&uot;Now, individuals can fly right into our own airport in Shelby County,&uot; McDonald said.

&uot;They won’t have to land in Birmingham. They’ll be that much closer to Shelby County.&uot;

McDonald said the runway extension and the announcement of an additional $547,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration will be positive for Shelby County.

He said the additional funds, awarded through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, will be used to overlay the runway with FAA-specified plant-mixed asphalt to cover the seams left by the extensions.

McDonald said the 5,002-feet-long, 75-feet-wide runway is as large as it can become as it is now landlocked at the airport