Runway project detailed at hearing

WINTERSVILLE – The runway widening and extension project at the Jefferson County Air Park was the focus of a public hearing Thursday, a key step in obtaining necessary Federal Aviation Administration approvals.

County officials are planning to extend the runway by 600 feet and make it 15 feet wider, giving pilots a full 5,000 feet-by-75 feet to land on and take off from.

The plans also call for constructing a turnaround pad as well as a larger turnaround taxiway that, when funding becomes available, will be extended the length of the runway and paved.

“It will give more room so they’re not trying to turn (on the runway),” said engineering consultant Brad Homan of Michael Baker Jr. Inc., the project’s engineering firm. “Ultimately, the taxiway will be connected all the way to the end of the runway.”

Homan told Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile that so far it appears they’re FAA compliant. He said the final piece of the puzzle is the environmental assessment, and for that to be complete they needed to host the public hearing.

“We just needed to have the meeting for them to sign off,” he said, pointing out they are still going through their air space review.

“As a resident who lives basically in the footprint of the airport, I’m amazed at the type of aircraft now,” Gentile said. “It’s amazing, the transformation I’ve seen here in the last several years. I’m stunned at the activity, taking off and landing.”

Gentile said conversations with pilots lead him to believe that “those who need the 5,000 feet are looking forward to it; those that don’t are looking forward to the 75 feet.”

Two individuals were on hand for the hearing, though neither offered comments.