$72 Million in Expansions Projected at East Texas Regional Airport
January 30, 2019
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  • About $72 million in facility and infrastructure upgrades will be needed at East Texas Regional Airport over the next 20 years to meet expected growth — especially in business activity.

    According to an updated master plan accepted Wednesday by the Gregg County Commissioners Court, the airport will need more hangar space and electrical upgrades, among other structures and infrastructure improvements through 2038.

    Because the Federal Aviation Administration typically pays at least 90 percent of infrastructure project costs at nonhub commercial airports such as East Texas Regional, Gregg County could expect to pay about $9 million of those costs — if federal funding is approved by Congress on each suggested project in the coming years, Stephen C. Wagner, CFO for Coffman Associates airport consultants said.

    Coffman Associates, based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, led the 13-month process of updating East Texas Regional Airport’s master plan under a $600,000 contract in which the FAA paid 90 percent of the cost and Gregg County paid the remaining $60,000.

    The FAA is reviewing the master plan’s 19 airport layout maps that list each project suggested over the next 20 years. Once they are stamped and finally approved, the FAA will use those maps to determine whether to recommend that Congress approve grant funding for a particular project in the year that the project was targeted by the airport master plan.

    “Each year, the airport and the county will submit an application on the projects that they would like to pursue that next year, and they will look at the airport layout plan and see if that was a project that we anticipated,” Wagner said.

    “One of the items that FAA is very careful about is that, although they approve that drawing, they’re not guaranteeing that they’re going to fund it for a given year. That just means that it qualifies for funding,” Wagner said, “so you’re competing with other airports for money, particularly if it’s supplemental funding.”

    The master plan is virtually unchanged from the draft that consultants presented during a third and final public input meeting in July at the airport’s terminal lobby, though new mapping of approaches at the runways and elsewhere on the airfield were added since that meeting, he said.

    The airport will need 200,000 square feet more hangar space by 2038, when twice as many jets are expected on the airport grounds as compared with the current population, according to the plan.

    Also through 2038, the number of planes based at the airport is expected to grow from the current 105 aircraft to as many as 140, consultants said.

    Commercial passenger service will likely grow only minimally over the next 20 years, though previous drafts of the plan projected the transition in aircraft that American Eagle/Envoy Air has instituted in the past few months, Wagner said.

    “All of that aircraft can use this airfield as it exists today,” he said, “and the terminal building that was recently renovated and expanded also meets that demand, so there won’t be any problem on that side.”

    On the business side, the airport is an advantage for area companies with private aircraft, he said.

    Airport Director Roy Miller said there is a waiting line of businesses seeking hangar space to house aircraft.

    Fixed-based operator KRS renewed leases on its three existing hangars, and construction is ongoing for a 30,000-square-foot hangar in which commissioners will consider a lease with KRS next month, he said. That hangar is the first phase of a short-term plan to add about a half-dozen additional hangars of between 5,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet within the next decade or so.

    “You have excellent facilities. You have multiple fixed based operators. You have a 10,000-foot runway with a full instrument landing system. Those are all very advantageous to companies,” Wagner said, “and it’s one of the reasons why I think you’ve had such tremendous growth in new hangar construction over the last 10 years, and that is something that we anticipate to grow and expand over the next 10 to 20 years is that demand.”

    Consultants identified potential areas near FM 349, Jerry Lucy Road and Texas 322 where new hangar space could potentially be developed.

    The plan also suggests a need for taxiway pavement construction or upgrades along both the 10,000-foot Runway 13-31 and the 6,109-foot crosswind Runway 18-36.

    It proposes a 4,500-foot-long partial parallel taxiway on the east side of 13-31 that would serve aircraft from the LeTourneau University aviation program as well as new hangar development proposed in the plan.

    The shoulder of Runway 13-31 should be widened from its existing 10-foot width into a 25-foot shoulder width to meet the FAA’s established airfield standards, according to the master plan.

    Those standards also call for 13-31’s blast pad — the overrun area on which jet blast produced by large planes during takeoff could damage the runway — to be stretched from a 120-foot width and 150-foot length to a 200-foot-by-200-foot dimension.

    “The bottom line is that the runway system is in very good shape. We have a 10,000-foot runway and a good secondary crosswind runway,” Wagner said.

    “I think anything we get into, we have to look at the design standards, and the FAA continues to update design standards with regards to the safety areas that we need to protect alongside the runways and off the end of the runways, and some what they consider the protection zones off the end. They continue to change based on the visibility minimums that we have to the approaches. That did not change on the long runway, but it had been (changed) over time on the crosswind runway.”