By Gale Rose
Pratt, Kan. – Projects for the Pratt Regional Airport and other airports across the country will face a more certain future following the passage of the multi-year Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill by both the U.S. House and Senate.
All that is left is for both sides to work out compromise wording for the final bill before it goes to President Barak Obama for his signature.
The FAA has been working without approved funding since 2007. They have depended on a dozen continuances over the past three years and that has affected the ability of airports across the country to get contractors to commit to long-term contracts, said Reed Bell, airport manager.
“It makes planning improvements difficult. We had to rely on continuing resolutions,” Reed said. “We’ve been waiting for this to happen since 2007.”
The bill will help keep construction costs down because it will allow airports to know how much money they have to work with and that will allow them to plan projects so they can be done in one year instead of doing it in phases while waiting to see if the money is approved, Reed said.
The passage of the bill will help make it easier for the Pratt airport to carry out future improvement projects including an additional snow plow and truck, a crosswind runway, terminal area, aprons, security fencing, approach lighting for precision instrument approach during bad weather and a card swipe for the fuel dispenser.
The first of those projects will probably be the new snowplow and truck. After the 30 snow storm that closed the airport for three days in March 2009 and the storm that hit the airport this winter, the airport found out it takes a lot of time for one truck and plow to clear the runway and taxiway, Bell said.
Federal project funding makes it possible for airport updates that other wise would cost the airport substantially more. Federal funds cover 95 percent of the cost of approved projects so the savings to the airport can be substantial, Bell said.
The federal funding has allowed the airport to complete runway renovation, a taxiway renovation and new taxiway lights that are scheduled for installation this summer.
The airport has received approval for their new master plan that includes a study of a new crosswind runway, one of the items on the future projects list.
All these updates will mean a better, safer airport for aircraft both that visit and work out of the airport. It gives the airport more utility, Bell said.
The improvements have allowed Pratt to reach regional airport status. The airport has changed its name to Pratt Regional Airport and Bell will notify the FAA of the change so they can change the listing. The regional title alerts pilots that they can expect certain physical features at the airport and could help increase traffic.
The bill will allow the country to continue to modernize airports with Next Generation Air Traffic Control, NextGen, a system based on satellite technology. This will have the most impact on airports that handle commercial traffic like Wichita’s Mid Continent Airport.
“It will modernize our whole aviation infrastructure,” Reed said. “That’s a big deal.”
Source: PRATT TRIBUNE