BOZEMAN, Mont. – Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport officials are talking about plans to pave another runway. Currently, the airport has a turf runway for small planes to land on, but officials say flight training planes aren’t able to land on the turf runway.
Instead, they are sharing a runway with the bigger jets, which is causing congestion and the need for another runway.
Flight training students at Summit Aviation returned to Bozeman’s airport after a lesson in the sky, but sometimes landing at Montana’s busiest airport isn’t always easy.
“It gets busy,” said Ben Walton, owner of Summit Aviation. “There’s certain delays, sometimes we have to stay outside of the airspace or we have to extend our patterns and things like that.”
That’s because small flight school planes are sharing the runway with big commercial jets, which can create a problem for air traffic controllers.
“These airplanes are flying different speeds. Our aircraft fly a little slower than the jets coming in,” said Walton.
“It makes it tougher for our tower to make sure they have adequate separation between the aircraft, and occassionally when things are really busy it means we might have flights or aircrafts circling,” added airport director Brian Sprenger.
Sprenger said at times the airport may have up to 80 landings or take-offs in an hour. To help decrease the congestion and improve safety, officials are planning to pave a new runway for small planes to land.
“It makes it a little bit easier for the student flyer getting in and out and also helps provide more efficiency for the airliners coming in as well,” said Sprenger.
Walton said the new runway will make landing at Montana’s busiest airport much easier for the students.
“We currently do about 150 operations per day,” said Walton. “A lot of that is stagnated by having to extend or stay outside the airspace while we let the larger traffic in, so our students will get more landings, more take-offs, more experience.”
Airport officials hope they can get the project started next year. Sprenger estimates the project will cost about $5 million for the paved runway. They will fund the project using airport funds and also the airport improvement program, which brings in money to airports from airline ticket taxes.