A: The Airport underwent a runway, taxiway, and apron rehabilitation project. That’s a fancy way of saying, “We fixed the pavement!”
Just like the roads and highways that we drive our cars on every day, that need occasional repair and refurbishment, airport surfaces do too! Runway 13/31 and Section 1 (the southern-most aircraft parking apron) received a fresh coat of asphalt while the remaining areas had their cracks filled and surfaces seal coated. Seal coating is a preventative maintenance technique that helps protect asphalt from moisture and freeze/thaw cycles that can lead to potholes and cracking.
In addition to the pavement maintenance, we installed new energy-efficient LED lights on the edges of the runway which significantly reduce the Airport’s power consumption. We also added new paved runway shoulders to assist with snow removal around the runway edge lights. Prior to the project, the plow would have to drive in the dirt and it made for a lot of work in the spring time to fix the ruts.
On the north end of the airport, we built something called a “Blast pad.” The blast pad measures 200 feet long and 140 feet wide. It is not considered “full-strength pavement.” That means it cannot be used by aircraft. The purpose of this area is to simply prevent erosion of soil, dust, and foreign object debris, caused by aircraft engine blast at the runway end when they are powering up to takeoff. In the past, every few months, Airport Operations would have to spend time and materials filling ruts that were caused by the jet blast. This new pavement area prevents the need for that.
In total this airfield project cost $8.6 million dollars and was fully funded by the FAA. No local airport money was used on the airfield project.
On the “other side” of the fence, in the parking lot, the airport has invested $1.3 million into improvements and repair. That included repaving the upper lot, constructing a new lower lot and sealcoating all the roads. With these improvements comes a better and safer customer experience.
The new lower lot not only provides greater parking capacity for our customers and tenants but will have a heated handicap ramp, stairs, and walkways which will increase safety for our customers.
The Airport’s runway was 7,550’ long by 100’ wide and is still 7,500’ long by 100’ wide. That didn’t change and will not change!
On top of that, the Airport has a strict 95,000lb weight limit for all aircraft operating in and out of SUN. There were no changes to size of the Airport’s runway or changes in the size and weight of aircraft that are allowed to operate here.
Q: If the runway wasn’t extended, what was with all the work that was done on the south end of the Airport?
A: We’ll try our best to keep the FAA’s long list of acronyms (that we call alphabet soup!) out of this answer. With that said, the FAA has something called “Runway Safety Areas” or RSA for short. Every public-use paved runway in the United States has an RSA of some form or another.
An RSA, simply put, is a flat area of grass on the sides and ends of a runway. The purpose of these areas is to give aircraft a safe area to come to a stop in the unlikely event that they veer or slide off the sides or the ends of the runway due to such things as an aborted takeoff or slide off in slippery conditions.
For those reasons, airports are required to have smoothly graded RSA with no ruts, humps or ditches that could affect an aircraft from stopping safely.
You may have noticed the airport boundary fence was moved south last fall. That’s because, previously, the fence was located only 600 feet from the runway end. Full FAA RSA standard is 1000 ft. We were short by 400 feet.
When the land off the south end was purchased in 2018 for runway protection (and obstruction removal) it allowed us to relocate the fence to the south the additional 400 ft. to get us a full 1000-foot standard RSA.
The earthwork that you saw happening on the south end of the runway were bulldozers working to remove the imperfections of the new terrain contour. The dozers flattened the terrain so there is a consistent gradient past the runway pavement end.
After this earthwork was done, topsoil was spread evenly over the top and grass seed was imbedded into the soil. Now, this area resembles every other grassy safety area on the airport.
Runway Safety Areas increase safety and redundancy for everybody!
A: No. The usable runway surface of 7,550 x 100 is not changing and the 95,000lb weight limit is unwavering and resolute. The Airport will continue to serve the flying public in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner.
A: No. There will be no change to flight schedules due to recent construction. While, legally speaking, no public-use airport may prohibit flight operations based on time of day (or night), the Airport will continue to proactively promote its voluntary noise abatement procedures. The Airport spends significant time and resources conducting pilot-outreach in attempts to avoid overflights of sensitive areas. Each aircraft operator who does not comply with our voluntary noise abatement program will continue to be contacted by the Airport Management team to educate them about program and its importance to the community.
A: The Airport is pleased to have partnered with Blaine County’s Road and Bridge department and the City of Hailey’s Streets Department to give almost all asphalt millings to local government entities. These recycled millings will be used for local road projects and street repairs around the valley. Some of the millings were saved and will be used, on-site, to patch small holes and ruts in the perimeter road.
Every cubic foot of dirt that was excavated from the runway edges were used to fill in depressions, holes, and ruts on the south end of the airport to flatten the contour of the Runway Safety Area.