A consultant’s study about ways to improve the safety of the Russellville-Logan County Airport now – and how to handle increased traffic in the future – should be complete within the next month.
“We’d like to extend the runway to an appropriate length to handle all of the traffic that we are getting,” said airport manager R.B. Hirsch. “We have jets and planes coming in on a daily basis for people to evaluate and conduct business in Logan, Simpson and Todd counties.”
The airport’s runway is 4,000 feet. It should be at least 4,500 feet long, he said.
But it is the approach areas to the runway that are of immediate concern, according to retired Marine Maj. Gen. Jerry Humble, who is chairman of the airport board.
“We’ve got to fix the approaches so it is safe for night landings,” Humble said. “The next thing would be to fix the safety zone where the taxi way is too close to the runway and a private road butts right up against it. We are under a waiver right now until the study is done.”
It is likely the $115,000 study conducted by Garver LLC of Tennessee will recommend the purchase of more than 54 acres of land from multiple surrounding property owners. At least initially the plan would be to remove trees so that pilots could come into the airport at lower approaches, Hirsch said.
“We have Fort Campbell coming over here to do practice runs with their helicopters and numerous businesses use it on a daily basis,” he said. “We have significantly greater traffic than other smaller county airports.”
In the past few years, the airport has christened a new terminal building and has 16 outdoor T-hangars, which are full. A corporate hangar is used as a paint shop.
“We are getting in small and large airplanes in the paint shop all of the time,” Hirsch said. “There is a fairly substantial waiting list for hangars. When we are financially able to we would like to build more hangars. But we can’t do that until after we have satisified our safety issues of the runway being a little too short and the encroaching trees.”
Humble said the airport does not yet have approval to extend its runway.
The first step is to acquire the land, something he hopes will happen this year. Humble is unsure of how much it will cost to acquire the land but the consultant will be filling out the paperwork to obtain airport improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Administration to purchase the property. Then it will be to fix the approaches and the safety zones.
“It will probably be 2015 before we can consider extending the runway,” Humble said.
Tom Harned, executive director of Logan Economic Alliance for Development, said the extension of the runway is something that is definitely needed. An extension to 5,000 feet would mean it could handle larger planes and might be a help when trying to attract industry to the area, he said.
— Robyn L. Minor covers business, environment, transportation and other issues for the Daily News. Follow her at twitter.com/bowserminoror visit bgdailynews.com.