By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – During the August declaration of Aviation and Aerospace awareness month, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC) has announced more than $142 million in airport infrastructure projects are scheduled for fiscal years 2020-2024 as part of their Airport Construction Program (ACP).
OAC oversees the development of a statewide system of airports, encourages aeronautical safety and advancement, and coordinates activities with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop a national airport system.
Through ACP, the Commission determines the airport projects that will be constructed at the state’s 104 general aviation airports and how they will be funded.
The OAC determines the airport projects that will be funded with federal and state funds through its ACP. Projects are prioritized based upon safety, preservation, standards and capacity.
According to an OAC press release, the ACP is based on anticipated funding levels that are determined from state and federal allocations for airport development in the state. Although the state has a sizeable investment in this ACP, $22.8 million over 5 years, it only accounts for 16 percent of the overall $141 million total.
“The Aeronautics Commission does not receive any appropriated dollars from the Legislature,” said Aeronautics Director Victor Bird. “The state’s investment in the airport system is funded by the taxes and fees paid by aircraft owners and pilots that use Oklahoma’s airports.”
Seventy-five projects at airports within the state system are included in the approved ACP, with the majority involving pavement work of some kind, such as the rehabilitation of a runway or taxiway. The essence of an airport is good pavement, the release stated.
The program also includes a $1 million statewide effort for the replacement and installation of AWOS (Automated Weather Observation Systems) that will improve the safety of each airport by providing pilots with accurate, real-time weather information.
Big rock projects are an integral part of the ACP and are defined as a significant upgrade to the capability of a system airport, a high cost project that is needed to sustain or improve the capability of an airport.
Examples of big rock projects are a runway extension, construction of parallel taxiway, runway reconstruction or overlay, major lighting system replacement, or other projects typically requiring multi-year and multi-source funding.
One such project scheduled to begin in the next few years includes a $7.5 million project to reconstruct the main runway at Ponca City Regional Airport.
The airport is used by EagleMed to facilitate patient transfers. Phillips 66 uses the airport to provide access for executives and employees to inspect and undergo training at their refinery, which employs over 960 people.
Another project will take place at the Guymon Municipal Airport. Its existing asphalt runway is showing signs of distress. The total cost for the project is estimated at $2.2 million. Businesses that use the airport include Seaboard Foods, PTCI, Bank of Panhandle, City National Bank, Prestige Farms, Oak & Associates, County View Mobile Homes, Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, and The Kent Companies.
In the Oklahoma City metro area projects in the ACP are scheduled for Wiley Post in Oklahoma City and Richard Lloyd Jones Jr in Tulsa, both general aviation reliever airports, which are slated at $6.5 million and $6.6 million respectively for various runway and taxiway upgrades.
OAC also plans to invest in several new terminal buildings at airports including Lawton Ft. Sill Regional and El Reno Regional. OAC is also renewing its focus on the funding of lighting systems at airports through the ACP.
“We’ve spent the last 15 years really focusing on our safety and standards improvements as well as bringing up our pavement conditions to acceptable levels,” said agency Deputy Director Grayson Ardies. “This has led to our lighting and electrical systems to age a bit more than we would like,” he added.
“This renewed focus on lighting will ensure 100 percent functionality during all weather conditions and times of day at our airports.”
The Oklahoma Aviation & Aerospace Industry produces just under $44B in annual economic activity, making it the second largest economic engine in the state.
Three segments account for the $44B total: Military aviation, $19.3B; off-airport aviation and aerospace businesses, $13.9B; and the 108 commercial and general aviation airports, $10.6B. Aviation & Aerospace supports 206,000 jobs totaling an $11.7B payroll. The average salary in the industry is $73,300 making it one of the highest average salaries in the state.
To view the Proposed FY2020-2024 Airport Construction Program, visit the Aeronautics Commission website.