Planes and jets landing and taking off from the Angelina County Airport will soon notice a smoother ride while on the ground.
Work crews were tearing up the ground around runway 33-15 to start work on the drainage system. According to County Judge Wes Suiter, it’s the beginning of a $2.4-million project to improve the standards of the biggest county airport in the region. Suiter said the funds were approved in 2014 in the project that is getting assistance from TxDOT. Suiter said the county had to spend $240,000 of the total cost while TxDOT took care of the rest. The project may look complicated on the drawing, but it is simple for pilots.
“We will be repairing anything a plane’s wheel touches,” said Interim Airport manager Gary Letney. “It could be hangar ramp, main ramp, taxi ways or runways.”
Letney said the overall condition of the ramps is still considered good. He believed the ramps still had another few years left in their life but said TxDOT likes to stay ahead on the work
“We’ve had some drainage issues on some of the taxi ways that have created some medium problems,” Letney said.
All of the issues are not just caused by drainage runoff. Several holes on a closed-off taxi way were filled in after a lightning strike hit the tarmac. Other concerns are loose gravel that could get flung around by planes’ propellers. The projectiles could do serious damage to planes. The whole project should be completed in five months which also includes renaming of a runway to fit the new magnetic north.
“There will be some runway closures here and there and taxi way closures, but generally we are not going to have both closed at one time,” Letney said. “There is one day they are both set to be closed, but we still may be able to let the small planes land and take off.”
Once completed, the renovations will help accommodate the growing demand of bigger planes and events such as the annual Airfest that benefits Toys for Tots.
“We do get jets and some of the damage [repair] on the taxi ways is critical to those,” Letney said. “When we get done with this project we will be looking at some other things maybe two or three years down the road. We will also soon need to replace our road coming in.”