Sugar Land Regional Airport traces its origins to the early 1950s and while much has changed in Sugar Land and the area surrounding the facility, one thing has remained constant: change. Thanks to a bevy of ongoing improvement projects, the airport continues to evolve.
According to city of Sugar Land Aviation Director Phil Savko, the airport, which caters primarily to private, business-owned aircraft, is in the midst of carrying out over $20 million in improvements, including the construction of new hangars, a parallel taxiway and a brand new approach lighting system.
‘We’re a little bit behind on our construction projects, but right now, we’re building a hangar that has to be built because we have to knock down a hangar in order to build the parallel taxiway,” Savko said. “We’re doing phase one of the taxiway project this year and, hopefully, phase two and three next year.”
Savko said the parallel taxiway is needed because the airport has fallen out of what he termed “design standards” mandated by the Federal Aviation and Administration (FAA) regarding the distance between the taxiway and runways. He said the agency wants the facility to increase the distance between the taxiway and runway from the existing 200 feet to 400 feet to add an extra level of safety.
“The taxiway has become a priority project in terms of safety because of the size of jets we’re landing. We’re landing jets now with wingspans of over 100 feet,” Savko said.
Officials plan to bid out the taxiway project in about a month, with the work to be divided into four sections (center, mid, south and north). Savko said work on the north section will not be able to proceed until a 40,000 square-foot hangar is rebuilt.
The approach lighting system, Savko said, represents a substantial upgrade for the facility and will greatly improve the ability of pilots to see the runway at night by providing an alignment indicator that he says is essentially a big pointer to the center of the runway. The airport recently acquired 11 acres of nearby land in order to accommodate the system that comes with a price tag of around $1 million.
“The parallel taxiway project has to be completed before the approach lighting system because all of the electrical circuits have to tie in the right way and the pavement design has to tie in the right way,” Savko explains. “You don’t want to cut pavement two or three times; you only want to do it once and then put conduit underneath.”
The lighting system will consist of a total of five “stands” of varying heights containing lights that will be installed in the pavement of the runway and also includes one stand that will be installed in the middle of US 90A, which requires the cooperation of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot). Savko says full installation of the lighting system could take about a year to complete.
According to the airport web page on the city of Sugar Land website, Sugar Land Regional Airport’s history dates back to around 1952 when Dr. Donald “Doc” Hull purchased a pasture so he could land his biplane near the Sugar Land area. Initially called Hull Field, the airport has grown steadily over the ensuing decades and was purchased by the city of Sugar Land from Fort Bend County in 1990. Formerly called Sugar Land Municipal Airport, the name was changed to Sugar Land Regional Airport in 2002. It focuses on landing planes ranging in size from single engine aircraft all the way up to Boeing 737 business class jets that can seat 60 to 70 passengers.