SOUTH BEND -- South Bend Regional Airport re-opened its north-south runway to traffic recently, after addressing electrical problems that surfaced on its main runway, which runs east-west, officials have announced.
The airport had closed the north-south runway to lengthen it from 6,000 to 7,100 feet, said John Schalliol, the airport's executive director.
The project, which officials say will improve safety, required relocating a portion of Lincoln Way West to the south of its previous location. Plans were to reopen the runway at its new length on June 1, when all surfacing work will be done.
But Schalliol said he recently received Federal Aviation Administration approval to reopen the runway now at its current length, after workers fixed electrical problems on the airport's main runway, which runs east-west.
Schalliol said regulators generated a wildly fluctuating current, instead of the constant current they normally generate. That burned out connectors, circuit boards and wires in weak spots, he said.
It took workers two full days and part of a third to repair the approximately $14,000 in damage that resulted, Schalliol said. But airfield lights were working by night on the first day so that planes were able to land, he said.
The airport's main runway is more than 8,400 feet long, and its shortest, which runs parallel, is 4,300 feet long. The two are separated by about 3,500 feet, and the north-south runway intersects both.
The lengthening project will make it easier for planes to land when strong winds come out of the north or the south, Schalliol said. Crosswinds of more than 25 knots make it difficult for even large planes to land on the main runway.
The airport is using a $2,736,896 airport improvement grant to pay for the runway project and other projects, including the expansion of its general aviation parking apron, which workers finished in August.
South Shore update
The airport has acquired a property at 55100 Oak Road in South Bend for $72,000. The parcel is among those it needs for its South Shore relocation.
Plans call for modifying the existing route so that trains approach the airport from the west, rather than the east.
When completed, the move is expected to shave about 12 minutes off a trip between South Bend and Chicago.
The South Shore is also exploring the possibility of another route modification in Michigan City. Together, the changes would save about a half-hour on trips.
New airport board member
Thomas Botkin, of South Bend, is replacing Robert Henry, who has served the Airport Authority board for more than a decade. Botkin, an attorney and private pilot, was appointed by the county commissioners to a four-year term, Schalliol said.
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Extending the taxiway will cost about $8 million.
In 2009, the airport's 10,000-foot main north-south runway will be closed for six months for major reconstruction estimated at $7.5 million.
Tallahassee Regional Airport needs a longer runway, expanded baggage service and more gates to handle additional passengers and commercial traffic expected over the next 20 years.