Middlebury — At a Middlebury Select Board meeting held at the public library branch in East Middlebury Dec. 2, Guy Rouelle, state pilot and aeronautics administrator for the State of Vermont, discussed with board members the state’s plan for maintenance along with runway, taxiway, and apron improvements.
According to a meeting highlights report, prepared by Town manager Kathleen Ramsay, a rough timeline for the proposed extension of the runway at the airport has been established: 1.) The state must submit an environmental report to the FAA and begin its design work in March, 2.) then apply for construction funding in May 2016, and 3.) trim and clear selectively identified trees by January 2017.
Actual construction along the runway and taxiway is expected to begin by April 2017.
As a follow up to the meeeting. the Eagle submitted several questions to Rouelle about the pending work at the airport. The inquriy included concerns about the long-term vitality of Vermont’s state airport system and the future of general aviation in Addison County.
The Eagle: What exactly does it mean to be a “state airport”? Are there non state airports in Vermont?
Rouelle: “The State of Vermont owns and operates 10 Public Use airports in Vermont. There are 16 Public Use airports and 85 Private Use airports in Vermont.”
The Eagle: Regarding Middlebury Airport, how has our airport performed when compared to other, comparable state airports?
Rouelle: “Middlebury Airport performs well compared to other State airports. Each airport has its own niche. Middlebury supports two growing aviation-related business and supports many other aviation related businesses in the state. Example: Middlebury provides most of the fuel for a local parachute operation and Middlebury is the homebase for the Lemon Fair District (insect spraying).”
The Eagle: A broader question—What is the health of general aviation in Vermont and elsewhere—and—are any Vermont “heritage” airports in danger of closing as we hear about other small airports elsewhere in the USA?
Rouelle: “Vermont airports are performing quite well. In the previous four years Vermont Aeronautics has worked exceptionally hard to place each airport on a sustainable path. All 10 airports have met that goal with increases in activity, fuel sales, jobs and lease revenue.”
The Eagle: Why is the construction work at the Midd Airport needed now (and when was this idea actually first proposed)?
Rouelle: “The Town of Middlebury has carried the runway extension in their master plan for decades. Trees have grown and are impacting the approaches to the airport and the pavement conditions are now at a point where a full depth reconstruction is needed.”
The Eagle: Explain exactly what physical changes will be made to the airport infrastructure and what are the positive benefits, etc.?
Rouelle: “The plan is to extend and widen the runway by 700 feet and 10 feet, respectively. This will enable aircraft operating to and from the airport a more safer margin for landing. Trees will be removed from the approach protection zone which will enable aircraft to perform a more stabilized approach to the runway. The plan is to also make repairs and corrections to non-standard runway safety areas and taxiways.”
The Eagle: What will your environmental assessment for the FAA exactly include?
Rouelle: “The E.A. or environmental assessment will evaluate the proposed project impacts. Usually the environmental manager from FAA will review the E.A. and, if the impacts are acceptable, will issue a FONSI or Finding of No Significant Impact. Alternatives to impacting a discovered resource will also be recommended in the process.
“Concerns from neighbors are noise, increased traffic and night time use. With that in mind, the state intends to hold numerous public meetings to present information on each of these topics so that the public has time to review, question and comment on the findings.”
The Eagle: What firm is heading up the airport design work?
Rouelle: “The final design consultant has not yet been selected. We expect to select one in the coming months.”
The Eagle: What is the current use of the Midd Airport: Is aviation use about the same, more, compared to recent years? How about new aviation-related business, like the aircraft painting business, there? (For example, we’ve heard about a German glider company bringing work here, but that apparently fell through.)
Rouelle: “Middlebury Airport has seen reasonable growth in the previous 3-4 years. Vermont Aeronautics uses fuel sales as one tool to measure activity on our airports. Calendar year 2014 year to date has seen a 23 percent increase in fuel sales over 2013. Green Mountain Avionics (at the airport) has seen significant growth this year being the only Vermont airport-based avionics shop in the state. Jobs and hangar leases have increased as well for Middlebury in 2014. Middlebury Economic Development management is also working with the State to identify viable aviation related businesses for the airport.”