Montgomery County will add a $1 million upgrade to the county airport's expansion plan, which is close to finishing its first phase to extend and reconstruct its secondary runway.
Commissioners Court recently approved a major improvement for the project's next phase at Lone Star Executive Airport: the primary runway will be rebuilt with concrete instead of asphalt.
"It's a very positive thing for us to switch to concrete and minimize the maintenance on the runway and thereby affecting our customers at the airport," said Jeff Bilyeu, director for the Lone Star Executive Airport in Conroe.
Asphalt lasts about 15 to 20 years and requires regular maintenance, he said.
Concrete has a longer life span of about 30 to 40 years and doesn't require periodic maintenance, Bilyeu said.
"It's a much better product," he said.
The upgrade to concrete adds an extra $1.3 million to the total cost of the expansion, which was first tagged at $7.1 million and now will reach $8.4 million.
The county will contribute an additional $250,000 to the project for a total of $960,000.
The Lone Star Executive Airport sees about 80,000 takeoffs and landings every year and has more than 260 aircraft based at the airport, Bilyeu said.
With fuel sales growing and more hangar space under construction, those numbers could grow.
The first phase of the airport's expansion plan is about 80 percent complete, Bilyeu said. It is expected to finish in about a month.
"The rain has been impacting us," he said.
The first phase will extend the airport's secondary runway to 5,000 feet, about 1,000 feet longer than its original 3,974, Bilyeu said.
As soon as that's done, the next phase on the airport's primary runway will start to reconstruct it with concrete.
In a few years, that primary runway should also get extended from its current 6,000 feet to 7,000 or 7,500 feet, Bilyeu said.
Contracts to build the airport's first air traffic control tower will be finalized this month and construction could start in August, he said.
The tower will take about a year to build plus six months for certification and hiring of controllers, he said.
Another sign of the airport's growth are more hangars being built there, Bilyeu said.
That includes one group of 10 small hangars, three executive hangars and one business hangar with office space, he said.
As part of its expansion, the airport also will get a new 1,600-foot taxiway and 10-acre development, including a restaurant and aviation facility.
David Allen, a longtime Lake Conroe resident and private pilot, is investing about $2.5 million in two sites on the 10-acre development.
His company Starbird Aviation plans to build a 7,000-8,000-square-foot general aviation activity center, where customers can come by road or fly in on the runway, and two 10,000-square-foot corporate hangar spaces with offices, said Allen, who is retired from an oil field company.
The aviation activity center will include a diner-type restaurant, conference room and a pilot's stop with weather computers, wireless Internet and space for flight and ground planning, Allen said.
The planned taxiway will connect the main runway to the restaurant, where pilots can tie down their planes for the day or rent hangar space by the month, he said.
"I think the growth of the airport is finally at the point that makes a restaurant possible," Allen said.
The center could start construction in September and the corporate hangar space by the end of this year.
"With the larger hangars, it's the concept of `build it and they will come,' " he said, noting some business have contacted him looking for corporate facilities.
"I just hope to meet this developing need for the area. I'm going to build it and they will come."
The Lone Star Executive Airport in Conroe is almost finished with the first phase of its major expansion project including:
Construction of air traffic control tower
Extension and reconstruction of primary runway
Extension and reconstruction of secondary runway
Development of more taxiway access for aircraft
New road access and utilities
Private and commercial hangar development
Source: Lone Star Executive Airport