NANTUCKET – Three airports on Cape Cod and Nantucket have received a total of $1.8 million in federal funding for safety improvement projects and planning.
The Federal Aviation Administration grants will go toward maintaining a runaway aircraft safety system at Barnstable Municipal Airport, long-term planning at Nantucket Memorial Airport, and improved visual guidance and apron repairs at the Provincetown Municipal Airport.
Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis was the first airport in New England to put in a so-called “engineered materials arresting system,” which reduces damage and injuries in case a plane overshoots the runway, airport manager Roland “Bud” Breault said.
The system was put in place about a decade ago, following an accident in 2000 when a turbojet with four people onboard overran a runway, crossed Route 28 and ended up in a busy shopping plaza.
Nobody was injured in the accident but the near miss and requirements from the FAA prompted the installation of the safety system, Breault said.
The system works like the runaway truck ramps on steep mountain roads. Instead of the gravel used to slow trucks, however, the airport system uses crushable hollow blocks intended to stop planes from crashing through the fence, Breault said.
The system, which was designed with a 10-year lifespan, was inspected about a year ago, he said, adding that the plan is to replace about 68 out of 3,000 of the blocks and add a plastic cover to prevent deterioration.
The total cost of the project will be nearly $1 million. The portion not covered by the $806,000 FAA grant will be made up by state Department of Transportation funds and airport reserves, Breault said.
Since the system’s installation there have been two incidents when small planes ran into the blocks. In both cases, the planes had taken a wrong turn and there was not a lot of damage, he said.
The system is only installed on the runway that ends closest to Route 28. Other runway clearances at the airport meet FAA mandates that require 1,000 feet of open space beyond the end of the tarmac.
Breault said he expects the work to begin after Labor Day and take no more than about three weeks to complete.
Massachusetts Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and William “Mo” Cowan and U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass, heralded the grants in a joint statement released today.
The funds are a great example of how investments in infrastructure can support local communities, Warren said.
“With the summer months approaching, residents of the Cape and Islands know just how busy their local airports get,” Keating said.
The Nantucket airport will get $700,000, said Nantucket Memorial Airport manager Thomas Rafter. The grant will be used to update the facility’s master plan, which includes a layout plan and a forecast of traffic through the airport.
Airport officials just recently finalized the scope for the master plan but haven’t officially applied for the grant yet, Rafter said, adding airport officials appreciate that the money is available to them.
Rafter says he expects the update to be done in 18 months.
The Provincetown airport will receive $300,000 to install airfield guidance signs to improve aircraft visual guidance and rehabilitate the facility’s apron.
The airport managers in Nantucket and Provincetown did not respond to messages left seeking comment for this story.
Nantucket Memorial is the state’s second busiest airport in terms of airplane traffic, just behind Boston’s Logan International Airport. Barnstable Municipal Airport is the third busiest in the state.