BY MELANIE BUCK –
A new ‘master plan’ is in the works at Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport. The airport has become a hub for the county, bringing in visitors from around the country, to this small neck of the woods.
Opened in the early 1940’s as a ‘rough flying field’ it has grown by leaps and bounds since then. It now has several businesses that offer services in maintenance, repair, and overhaul for small and mid-sized planes. According to their website, Mena Airport is, “Located in the geographical center of the United States, Mena is situated to serve you regardless where you are located. Whether you are in need of aircraft painting services, engine repair or rebuilding, airframe repair, upholstery, or avionics repair, Mena Airport is the right spot.”
In order to keep up with the air traffic it receives and to keep up with today’s best, the airport is in need of upgrading their master plan. The master plan is a long-range planning document used to review existing conditions and prepare forecasts that will define future aviation and non-aviation needs of the community. These needs guide the master plan process and are the basis for determining the appropriate role for the airport.
To ensure their master plan is updated appropriately, the airport has consultants from Kimley-Horn helping with the task. At present time, the consultants are reviewing the airport facilities and developing a list of needs and concerns for now and for the future, forty years in the future to be exact. One of the first steps is a survey that any pilot or tenants that use the airport can complete with their own concerns.
Once the surveys are complete, a FAA-defined process will determine airport development for the next 20 years. This will provide the framework to guide the airport into meeting FAA and state standards. The plan will include cost-effective planning and will consider potential economic, environmental, and financial impacts on the airport and the surrounding area.
One facet of the Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport is that the owner, the City of Mena, has not had to incur any financial burdens of the airport. Most of the land is available for commercial lease. The lands currently under lease provide the funds for the operations at the airport, allowing the airport to operate without financial burden on the City of Mena and the local taxpayers. In fact, the airport provides approximately $2000 worth of economic benefit for every resident in Polk County annually to the local marketplace according to the Arkansas State Aviation System Plan.
Any developments needed to satisfy the FAA mandated plan, will need to be funded. This will be done through FAA grant monies, usually a 90/10 ratio, meaning 90% will come from the FAA and 10% from the airport, which is reimbursed by the state. Some of the concerns seen already are the runway line of sight and visibility zone and taxiway pavement conditions. Airport Manager Will Robbins said, “None of the runways need improvement at this time, just regular maintenance.”
It will take six months to a year to completely update the master plan. Once updated, the plan will guide the airport toward its goals over the next 20 to 40 years.