The final steps needed for the completion of the Navajo Nation Airport System Master Plan are underway. This important project began in May of 2014 with a traditional Navajo blessing ceremony, followed by a well-attended project kick-off meeting led by Armstrong Consultants, Inc. and the remainder of the consultant team at the Navajo Division of Transportation (NDOT) Complex in Tse’ Bonito, New Mexico.
The Navajo Nation Airport System Master Plan focuses on five airports within the Navajo Nation which are currently included in the FAA’s National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). The five Navajo Nation airports included in this study are Chinle Municipal, Tuba City, Window Rock (located in Arizona) and Crownpoint and Shiprock (located in New Mexico). These airports were selected for the study because of their inclusion in the NPIAS, and therefore their eligibility to receive planning grants. Furthermore, they were also included due to their location within primary growth centers within the Navajo Nation.
It was apparent before the onset of the study that the airport system plays an important role in the daily lives of the citizens of the Navajo Nation. As such, the consultant team, with great support and assistance from the Navajo DOT – Department of Airports Management team, provided opportunities for Navajo Nation citizens that use the airports to participate and collaborate in the study. This was accomplished with the creation of a comprehensive bi-lingual public outreach program. The bi-lingual public outreach program goals were accomplished by listening to the public and tribal programs directly involved with each airport, collecting ideas, and reviewing feedback that ultimately allowed the Navajo DOT and consultant team to prepare the Airport System Master Plan.
Along with the input received from the communities, the study describes and depicts the overall concept for the short, medium, and long-term development of each airport. The study also identifies and prioritizes the improvements and the investments needed to enhance safety at the airports and improve operating conditions. The ultimate goal is to provide direction for the future airport system development in a financially feasible manner which meets the needs of the Navajo Nation.
The consultant team, along with Mr. Arlando S. Teller, Program Manager, of the Navajo DOT-Department of Airports Management, presented the draft Airport Layout Plans (ALPs) for each airport at the NDOT Regional Planning meetings held in December 2014 in order to ensure input from the Chinle, St. Michaels, Tuba City, Crownpoint, and Shiprock Chapters was captured and consistent with the vision, goals, and objectives of the surrounding communities. The ALPs depict all of the recommended planned development on and around each airport; the recommended planned development is the outcome of the inventory, facility requirements, and needs assessment portions of the study. The draft final report was released in April 2014, just under the 12-month completion goal for the study.
The consultant team is in the process of incorporating final comments from federal and state agencies. Once their comments have been addressed, the Navajo Nation Council in Window Rock, Arizona will be asked to pass a resolution in support of the plans which will allow the Navajo Nation President to sign each ALP.
The Navajo Nation Airport System Master Plan has successfully documented the existing and anticipated aviation demand at five of the Nation’s airports, as well as provided practical and implementable phased development plans based on input and guidance from the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC), FAA, NDOT, ADOT, NMDOT, FHWA, and most importantly the local communities. Going forward, the Navajo Division of Transportation now has a powerful resource to help guide the way for a more organized, well-planned, safe, and efficient system of airports within the majestic Navajo Nation.