It has been more than a month since the city of Stillwater announced new nonstop flights from Stillwater Regional Airport to Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport beginning August 23. It will be the first time since 1984 that the city of Stillwater has had scheduled passenger airline service.
To help make that happen, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission recently approved a state grant for $385,000 that will be used to construct two stub connecting taxiways near the midway point of the existing runway and parallel taxiway. The project is the first of two phases that will eventually realign a portion of the parallel taxiway to meet current FAA standards.
State aviation officials said getting the connecting taxiway projects started as soon as possible was important so that it would not interfere with the scheduled start of passenger air service in Stillwater or interrupt it once it begins.
“Gaining scheduled passenger service from Stillwater Regional Airport is a monumental achievement for Stillwater. We are pleased we can help it begin yet another chapter in their city’s history by providing this state grant,” Director of Aeronautics Vic Bird said.
State aviation officials said the parallel taxiway realignment project will cost $3.4 million to complete and should be ready for traffic by late 2018. This first phase of the project will cost $600,000, with the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission providing $385,000 of the total cost. The Federal Aviation Administration is providing $185,000 in federal funds, while the city of Stillwater is contributing $30,000 in sponsor matching funds.
“This is an important project to Stillwater and to our airline startup,” said Stillwater Regional Airport Manager Gary Johnson.” It’s not easy for any of us to start a project from ground zero and get it done in four months. But we have had great cooperation from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and FAA to try to do this. We think it’s the best approach (temporarily closing the main runway) versus waiting until next year when the project was normally programmed because it is going to serve the flying public a lot better in the long run.”
In order to reconstruct and realign the connecting and parallel taxiways, the airport’s main runway will have to be temporarily closed, officials said. Traffic would then be redirected to the airport’s crosswind runway, which is about 2,000 feet shorter than the main runway, but still long enough to handle most jet aircraft flying into Stillwater Regional.
Once the taxiway realignment project is finished, officials said plans are in the works to rehabilitate the crosswind runway and its accompanying parallel taxiway system. When that project begins, which officials said should be in another one to two years, the crosswind runway will be temporarily closed.
Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley said he appreciated the collaboration between the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and Stillwater Regional Airport to ensure that this phase of the project continues to move forward.
“There is still more work to be done before August 23 when passengers begin boarding the inaugural flight, but I am confident that the city of Stillwater and the Aeronautics Commission will complete this project in a timely manner,” Ridley said.
State Rep. Cory Williams and State Sen. Jim Halligan, both from Stillwater, said they are excited about the future of Stillwater and appreciated how the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has stepped up to assist the city in its quest to bring scheduled passenger air service to the city.
“The recent announcement of nonstop service from Stillwater to DFW is welcomed news to the people of Stillwater,” Rep. Williams said. “This new service necessitated enhancements on the airside of the airport, so I am grateful to the staff at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission who have gone the extra mile to make sure those improvements are funded and will be completed as soon as possible.”
Sen. Halligan said, “As a former president of Oklahoma State University, I cannot overemphasize the importance that scheduled airline service in Stillwater will have on the community, North Central Oklahoma and the OSU campus. There are many groups and individuals who have brought this dream to fruition; however, I would like to particularly thank Director Bird and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission for their assistance and continued support of Stillwater Regional Airport.”
The state grant funds to be used for the taxiway projects are part of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s three-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the long-term planning and programming document that provides publicly owned airports with federal and state grant funds for such things as runway and taxiway improvements, lighting and signage updates, and terminal construction.
On average, $4 million in CIP grants is awarded annually to communities throughout the state. Since 2002, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has invested about $55 million of the $66 million it has received from aircraft owners and pilots that use the Oklahoma Airport System – 83 percent of its total funding – in airport infrastructure projects.