Just in time for the August declaration of Aviation and Aerospace awareness month, more than $142 million in airport infrastructure projects are slated for the next several years as part of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s (OAC) Airport Construction Program (ACP) for fiscal years 2020-2024.
As part of the agency’s duties outlined in state statute, 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 its ACP, the Commission determines the airport projects that will be constructed at the 104 general aviation airports that are part of the state system and how they will be funded. Projects are prioritized based upon safety, preservation, standards and capacity. Oklahoma is a channeling state, which means the Commission determines the airport projects that will be funded with federal and state funds through its ACP.
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% of the overall $141 million total.
Aeronautics Director Victor Bird explained the agency’s funding mechanism by saying, “the Aeronautics Commission does not receive any appropriated dollars from the Legislature. 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. There is also 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.
Such a project scheduled to begin during the next few years includes a $7.5 million project to reconstruct the main runway at Ponca City Regional Airport. The Commission’s pavement management program forecasts a pavement condition index (PCI) rating of less than 65 for the runway with several spots that have failed beyond repair. The PCI is a numerical index between 0 and 100 which is used to indicate the general condition of pavement. The airport is used by EagleMed to facilitate patient transfers and Phillips 66 uses the airport to provide access for executives and employees to visit their refinery for inspections and training. The refinery employs over 960 people and is a large economic driver for the area.
The existing asphalt runway at Guymon Municipal Airport is in fair to poor condition and shows signs of distress. This project will ensure that Guymon has a successful and growing airport for years to come. The total cost for the project is estimated at $2.2 million. Airport data indicates that 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.
Other notable projects in the ACP are scheduled for both of Oklahoma’s metro area general aviation reliever airports. Wiley Post in Oklahoma City and Richard Lloyd Jones Jr in Tulsa 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 such as 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 continued. This renewed focus on lighting will ensure 100% functionality during all weather conditions and times of day at our airports.
To view the Proposed FY2020-2024 Airport Construction Program, visit the Aeronautics Commission website at oac.ok.gov.