Airport Advisory Board discusses buying land for runway extension

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 | 5:38 p.m. CST; updated 6:10 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 2, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Airport Advisory Board hopes to purchase land to allow Columbia Regional Airport to the lengthen its runways.

The extension is part of a $40 million runway improvement project approved by the Columbia City Council in April 2011, which would also repave the airport's crosswind runway.

The airport hopes to buy land north of Highway H before the third quarter of fiscal year 2013, said Dave Hadel, director of aviation services at Burns & McDonnell, a Kansas City engineering firm hired by the city to help with the project. That way, the Federal Aviation Administration could reimburse the city before the end of the fiscal year. 

The advisory board discussed the land acquisition at its Wednesday meeting.

A meeting will be held in February for the public to voice concerns about the project. Hadel said he expected to hear from the owner of a farm on Highway H, part of which would have to be rebuilt and bent northward around the lengthened runways.

"Lengthening the runway will enable us to land larger planes with heavier loads," Gregory Cecil, the advisory board chair, said in a phone interview after the meeting. "And as a safety standpoint, it is important to have longer runways."

Cecil said the airport sometimes has problems with the current runways. During hot summer weather, heavy planes cannot land on and take off from the runways. The jets used by Delta Air Lines and American Airlines cannot land on the crosswind runway, which must be used when there are strong east and west winds. In those conditions, planes must be diverted to Kansas City or St. Louis.

"The crosswind runway really, really, really needs to be redone," Cecil said. 

The board also discussed hopes for a new terminal. 

"The one we have now is just not able to accommodate all the traffic that we currently have," Cecil said. 

Now that 138-passenger jets from Frontier Airlines are flying to the airport and American Airlines will begin servicing the airport in February, its terminal is too small to handle more flights, Cecil said. American Airlines will begin servicing the airport when Delta leaves in February. He hopes a new terminal would include jetways, which allow passengers to walk straight from the terminal to the aircraft. The terminal should also have more room for passengers and meet all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Cecil said. 

The most recent estimate for renovation would cost around $18 million to complete, Cecil said.

The airport is also working on a new website and a Twitter account to boost awareness of new flights. 

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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Cole Kennedy January 3, 2013 | 8:02 a.m.

Still surprised there's any semblance of a market for an airport in mid-Missouri. I wish the federal and state governments would allocate enough money to build a legitimate HSR line from KC to STL, either on the existing track through JC or a new track up through Columbia. Or, they could build a spur up 63 connecting Columbia and JC.

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