COLUMBIA — Columbia Regional Airport is making plans to undergo even more activity after this year’s launch of a new advertising campaign and a switch to its new commercial service provider, Mesaba Airlines.
The city's Public Works department held the first of four public information workshops to update the Columbia airport’s master plan trying to get community input on the traffic it expects to see during the next 20 years and the facility changes necessary to accommodate that traffic.
From 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, the Columbia Public Library’s Friends Meeting Room was divided into stations where staff from Reynolds, Smith and Hills, the consulting group working with the airport and Columbia Public Works to update the master plan, gave presentations and answered questions.
Attendees had a chance to learn background information about the master plan and Columbia airport as well as projections for the number of passengers and specific types of aircraft the airport could expect to serve at different stages during the next 20 years. Also offered was information on potential facility alterations that could prove beneficial down the line to help meet the needs of the increased traffic. The final station was an unstaffed table where community members could offer suggestions and write comments about the workshop.
John Riddick, who is on the Airport Advisory Board, said he liked the presentation style at the workshop.
“I think it’s really cool, I’d never seen anything like that,” Riddick said. However, Riddick said he was “a little disappointed with the turnout.” Five people attended the workshop between 6 and 7:30 p.m.
A master plan is a comprehensive study of airport facility needs and development plans at different stages over 20 years. To receive Federal Aviation Administration grant money, the airport’s master plan has to be updated every five to 10 years. The current master plan was last revised in 2003, but the airport is updating it sooner than required because the majority of its planning took place before the Sept. 11 attacks, and the airport wants its plan to reflect the changes in security and economic regulations that have been made since then.
The first aspect of the airport’s facility that needs attention is its crosswind runway. The pavement on runway 13-31 is crumbling; although it isn’t dangerous, the runway makes for rough landings.
“The airport’s doing a good job at keeping it operational; but it’s getting very close to failing, beyond the ability to patch it, patch it, patch it,” Reynolds, Smith and Hills senior aviation consultant Neal Westlund said.
The airport’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting facility also needs improvement. The vehicles used at the facility have gotten larger since it was built and, although they fit in the parking spaces, the tight squeeze getting in and out makes response times slower.
The next step for the consultants will be to come up with specific proposals for facility improvement to present to the airport and city officials. The second workshop, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 27, will give the public a chance to learn about and comment on the possible options presented by the consulting firm. Reynolds, Smith and Hills will present the recommended proposal at athird workshop planned for March, and the final workshop in June will outline the master plan.