FORT SMITH - Fort Smith Regional Airport officials hope a new general aviation complex will bring local aviators back to the nest.
Airport Manager Kent Penney said the lack of general aviation space at Sebastian County's only airport has forced aircraft owners living in the Fort Smith area to store their airplanes at airports in Fayetteville, Poteau, Okla., and Sallisaw, Okla.
"We would really like to make sure we're meeting the aviation needs of everyone possible," Penney said.
The airport commission last week approved more than $5.5 million in contracts for improvements. More than $4.5 million of those contracts will go to developing a fiveacre general aviation complex on the southeast corner of the airport.
The airport has 22 general aviation and seven corporate hangars on the northwest part of its property. Some of the new hangars will replace 14 existing hangars that will be razed in the near future to allow for apron improvements, Penney said.
The airport stores 72 general aviation airplanes, Penney said, some in multi-bay hangars, some in large open hangars and some tied down outside on the apron.
But the Federal Aviation Administration's aircraft registry shows that 13 of the 85 aircraft owners who live in the Fort Smith area store their planes elsewhere because of the lack of space at the airport, he said.
"We know we have reservations for several of the hangars, and those are for people who store outside Fort Smith," Penney said.
The airport commission awarded SSI Inc. of Fort Smith a contract for nearly $1.3 million to build two 14-bay general aviation hangars. The bid also includes the cost of site work. The commission also awarded a bid of $2.8 million to Forsgren Inc. of Fort Smith for work on the five-acre general aviation apron and taxiway extension. Forsgren was the low bidder of four companies.
A $384,529 contract for a self-fueling station for the new general aviation complex was awarded to Southern Co. in Atlanta. The work will con- sist of installing two fuel tanks, a credit card reader system and site work.
Penney said most of the work will be paid for with Federal Aviation Administration and Arkansas Department of Aeronautics funds.
The commission also passed a resolution to waive competitive bidding and hire DEW Bridge of Canada to install a third boarding bridge at the airport terminal.
The terminal will serve Delta/ASA, which plans to begin service Thursday between Fort Smith and Atlanta. Delta announced in mid-February it will provide two round-trip flights daily between Fort Smith and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on 50-seat Canadair regional jets.
The commission awarded a contract for more than $900,000 for the bridge installation. The airport will pay for the job with Federal Aviation Administration money in an airport escrow account, but will repay the money in that account later with airport funds.
Another $130,000 for associated walkway, electrical and paving work also will be bid locally and paid for with airport money, Penney said.
Penney said he expects installation of the third bridge to be completed in September. In the meantime, he said, passengers will enter and exit the aircraft from the ground.
DEW built the two existing boarding bridges at the terminal in 2004 that are used by the airport's other airlines, American and Southwest.
The DEW contract includes moving one of the existing bridges and modifying it so it can accommodate narrow body aircraft, the doorways of which are higher off the ground than those of regional aircraft, Penney said.
This article was published 06/04/2007
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