City Manager Bill Watkins said during his State of the City address Wednesday that improving the airport and its service must be a city priority.
In 2010, the airport will undergo an environmental assessment to ensure it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the
master plan. The Federal Aviation Administration also requires the city to conduct a wildlife hazard assessment to determine whether deer, birds or other animals pose any risk to aircrafts. A proposal awaiting Columbia
City Council approval would authorize a contract Loomacres Wildlife Management to do the assessment and develop a wildlife management plan
Watkins said parts of the airport's runways need to be rebuilt to meet FAA standards and to keep them safe. The federal government will reimburse 95 percent of the cost. According to the master plan, one runway will be extended in 2011 and two more by 2015.
The airport terminal is another step of the remodeling process.
"Our 30-year-old terminal
must be modernized and must meet significant federal air security
standards," Watkins said.
Terminals are generally ineligible for the federal reimbursement.
Watkins praised the service of Delta Air Lines for its commercial flights to and from Memphis International Airport. Delta announced earlier this year that the service is so successful that it will no longer require a federal Essential Air Service subsidy to sustain the flights. All its flights now feature 50-seat jets.
Watkins said he would like to see flights from Columbia Regional to at least one more significant hub city.