BY MELANIE WADE –
The growth continues at Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport as two businesses have moved into new hangars and projects from the 40-year Master Plan continue to improve the airport grounds. Hampton Aviation built a new 110’ x 125’ hangar, which is now complete, and Arkansas Round Engine changed locations as well, and work is to begin on larger projects soon.
Much of the success can be attributed to the vast amount of improvements that have been completed and the 40-year Master Plan that has been in development for several months. Through the Master Plan, goals are attained and often with grants attached. Through this process, new runway lights have been installed, taxiways have received extensive repairs, and now, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) wants to include the resurfacing of Runway 17-35 as well. “The FAA knows the condition of the runway and wants to help us,” said Airport Manager Fred Ogden. The project would be fully funded by the FAA, with no cost to the city. The project is still in the early development stage, so estimates are very rough, according to Greg Shipley, of Morrison Shipley, who consults the airport with engineering services. He said the rough estimates are anywhere from $1.7 million to $2.4 million, depending on the depth of the asphalt that is laid on the runway.
Another improvement the Airport Commission discussed is improving their Remote Communication Outlet (RCO). The function allows pilots to talk to air traffic control from their planes, whether on the ground or in the air. The current system isn’t functioning properly and pilots must be at least 3,000 feet in the air before they can “grab the signal” to call in. If a signal cannot be attained, the pilot must call by cell phone before landing. To alleviate that issue, the commission is looking into other towers they can transmit from.
A project long in the works and that was a large topic of discussion during the development of the Master Plan was the separation of Runway 17-35 (that runs north and south) and Runway 9-27 (that runs east to west). The intersection of the two runways was the source of discussion and the commission and FAA have agreed to not tear up the existing pavement of the runways, but to instead place reflective chevron markings to indicate an off-limits area.
All of these developments help the airport continue to grow, which brings in more businesses, and more clients for those businesses. Longer and wider runways allow for larger aircraft to land, allowing many of the current businesses to receive government contracts in addition to private.
Ogden said the airport provides around 300 jobs for community members. Not only do employees spend their hard-earned dollars in the community, travelers coming into the county via the airport also bring money to the local economy.
In an Individual Airport Summary Report from 2006 (the latest data available), prepared by the Arkansas State Airport System, the Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport (MEZ) had a total economic impact of $48,544,400. More than $14 million of that was in payroll alone.