BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport Commission met on Monday in a planning session to discuss some of the final preparations before submitting their 40-year Master Plan to the Federal Aviation Administration. Staff members from Kimley-Horn and Morrison Shipley were on hand to explain the details and make adjustments as needed as they presented the plan to the Commission.
Some of the initial assessments include extending runways, creating better taxiways, the possibility of modifying the front off of an existing building to create larger wingspan areas, and trimming trees for better lines of sight.
The 40-year Master Plan will be presented to the FAA in the coming months and after being approved, work will begin on various projects to improve airport landing strips and more in the coming years. Airport Manager Will Robbins emphasized that all projects listed in the 40-Year Master Plan that will be given to the FAA are contingent upon approval by the FAA and that none of the projects are set in stone yet. Also, due to the plan being a 40-year plan, any approved projects may take many years to come to fruition and that all of them are also contingent upon funding.
In some cases, the FAA requirements have changed and Mena Airport will have to make necessary modifications or upgrades to stay in compliance in future years. Taxiway to runway areas are one facet that will change. Runway 09-27 will expand to 6,250 feet and Runway 17-35 will have a length of 5,000 feet when plans are approved and construction complete. RVZ (Runway Visibility Zone) is an issue when going from one runway to another. “I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I’ve never had a scope that made me put in red writing that we would identify runway line of sight issues and include corrective alternatives,” said Pam Keidel-Adams of Kimley-Horn, the consulting firm that has assisted the airport throughout the process of creating the Master Plan. Keidel-Adams was speaking of a line of trees and buildings that block the view of pilots while on the runways. “A big issue with the FAA is that this is a non-standard runway and the taxiway is too small with a blocked line of sight,” added Keidel-Adams.
“Taxiway Bravo is a top priority,” said Robbins. The new taxiway, to fit into new standards, must be a distance of 240-feet from the center of a runway; however, it will cut into parking lots and ‘aprons’ (parking lots for airplanes) in front of Rose Aircraft Services so the Commission is looking into alternatives to come to a final plan before submitting it to the FAA.
On the west side of the airport, another taxiway needs to be built, however, approximately five feet of the front of Mena Air Center is in the way of those plans so that is another area in which the Commission seeks an alternative. Although the airport doesn’t see a large amount of 737’s, the new areas would create easier landings and taxiways for those that do come in.
Throughout the process, environmental impacts and cost effectiveness will be weighed on each project.
Keidel-Adams and Colin Wheeler of Kimley Horn will take the Commission’s recommendations back with them to include in the final draft of the Master Plan before being sent to the FAA for approval. Gregg Shipley of Morrison Shipley, another consultant, has been working with Will Robbins on a draft to send to the FAA for approval of the Taxiway Bravo plans.
A public workshop will be held at the Commission’s next meeting in November.