Missoula International Airport: Cleared for landing

$6 million runway repaving completed


ABSTRACT

The airport is also taking advantage of the construction project and the lull in activity to remodel the Liquid Planet space upstairs, building more room for the coffee house.

By the time this newspaper hits your doorstep, Missoula International Airport will again be open for business.

After three days of work, one-third of the airport's $6 million runway repaving project is complete. Now the two repaving and construction crews, who've been working nonstop in 12-hour shifts, can take a break for a few days as the airport opens again for the weekend through Labor Day.

"Everything's gone relatively smooth," reported airport director Cris Jensen, as he surveyed the work in progress Thursday afternoon. "And we're pretty much on schedule." The airport was to reopen at 6 a.m. Friday for all flights.

"Smooth" is exactly the point, of course. The airport's runway hasn't been repaved since April 1992. That year, flights were halted entirely for a month between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., causing significant headaches for travelers and airlines.

Fifteen years later, the airport board adopted a different strategy. A series of rolling closures will keep air traffic moving most of the time, with three intermittent stoppages as each section is completed.

The first phase of the project repaved the eastern portion of the 9,500-foot runway. More than 9,800 tons of new asphalt was poured over nearly 500,000 square feet of runway during the last three days, said Jensen.

The middle phase of construction will begin the day after Labor Day. That section will be closed starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, and will reopen at 6 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 7. The final phase is set to begin at 8 a.m. the following Monday, and is expected to wrap up in time for weekend traffic the following Friday.

Big Sky Airlines was the only carrier able to operate during the first phase, using the airport's secondary runway. It will also be flying during the third phase, but all air traffic will be halted during the middle phase, because that's where the two runways meet, said Jensen.

The only other air traffic was from firefighting aircraft.

"It is quieter than normal," Jensen said. "It's a different kind of sound out here."

The airport is also taking advantage of the construction project and the lull in activity to remodel the Liquid Planet space upstairs, building more room for the coffee house.

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