BOWMAN — A new airport east of Bowman that has been nearly a decade in the making is officially open for business.
The Bowman County Municipal Airport, which sits about four miles east of Bowman, spans 400 acres and has a 5,700-foot runway, making it the longest small general aviation runway in North Dakota.
Overall, the airport is triple the size of the one it replaced three miles west of the town.
A ribbon cutting dedication Thursday featured Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, who spoke on the airport’s importance in the region.
“The opening of the Bowman County Municipal Airport is a critically important milestone in our efforts to address the impacts of rapid growth in our state,” Wrigley said. “This new airport will attract and facilitate business, and provide a safe operating environment for medical personnel, agricultural operators, flight training and aircraft maintenance.”
Bowman Mayor Lyn James, Mark Holzen of the Federal Aeronautics Administration, and other local leaders associated with the project attended the event.
Rod Schaaf, a member of the Bowman County Airport Authority who was also at the dedication, said the airport has been a long time coming. The first dirt moved on the project in October 2012.
“It was a good day,” he said. “It was a relief.”
Schaaf said that plans for the new airport began almost 10 years ago when the county did a study to see if the original airport could handle an increase in air traffic from the growing energy industry. They found that, at the runway’s current length, corporate jets from destinations like Oklahoma and Texas could only take off from Bowman’s airport with half-filled fuel tanks and had to refuel at another location.
After finding that surrounding conditions prevented the original airport from expanding, the county looked around and eventually designated a spot four miles east of town to create a new one. Schaaf said that in addition to being longer, the runway was designed to be more durable and capable of receiving larger or heavier aircraft. It is also made with grooved cement, he said, which makes the runway more effective at draining rainwater and creates less potential for hazards.
Schaaf also said the airport is equipped with twin 10,000-gallon fuel tanks, more than double the capacity of the old airport’s two 4,000-gallon fuel tanks. It also has the most up-to-date technology, he said, including LED runway lighting and GPS.
“That’s the pluses we have going into the future here,” Schaaf said.
Funding for $16 million project was came from federal, state and local sources. This included more than $2.9 million in state Energy Impact Grant funding, which are used to support various municipal projects across North Dakota.
The airport is already set to be used. Schaaf said that 10 hangars each hold an aircraft, with a crop-dusting facility being built. He also said that Valley Med Flight—an air ambulance service based in Grand Forks with helicopter and fixed-wing units in Dickinson—has said it plans to use the airport, and oil companies have called to make sure it will supply fuel and other services for their jets.
“We’re up and running, open for business,” Schaaf said.
Like Wrigley, he said he sees the airport as a positive step for the community.
“It’ll be a good asset here,” he said.