Yeager Airport Runway Work Advances on Schedule

Earth moving work on the Charleston end of Yeager Airport's main runway should be complete by the end of this week, but construction of the safety overrun area to be built on the site is not likely to take place until March.

That was one of several construction updates delivered Wednesday to members of the airport's governing board by Yeager's director, Rick Atkinson.

Atkinson told board members that an Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) arrestor bed is scheduled to be installed at the site in March, when temperatures are expected to rise above 40 degrees for extended periods of time, allowing the system's specially designed concrete blocks to be set in place.

When an aircraft rolls into an EMAS arrestor bed, tires sink into the bed's light concrete, causing the aircraft to rapidly decelerate by having to roll through the material. EMAS arrestor beds, designed to prevent runway overruns, are in use at 14 U.S. airports, and are scheduled for installation at Yeager and three other airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

When the weather conditions are favorable, it should take only four weeks to install the arrestor bed, Atkinson said.

Once earth-moving work is complete on the Charleston end of the main runway, construction crews will turn their attention to the Coonskin Park end, where a 500-foot-long extension of the main runway is taking shape.

"Weather permitting, they'll work through the winter on that end of the project," Atkinson said. Work on the Coonskin end of the runway should be complete by next August or September, he said.

Meanwhile, a widening project on the main runway's taxiway is nearing completion, and should be complete by the end of December, Atkinson said. The taxiway is being widened from its current 50 feet width to 75 feet, and being relocated away from the runway to provide a 315-foot buffer zone between taxiway and runway for added safety.

In other developments Wednesday, the Yeager board voted to seek requests for proposals for engineering work to update the airport's master plan, pave its runway extension, and design a beefed up fire hydrant system at the airport's general aviation area.

Atkinson told board members that in light of Southern Skyways' launch of new direct flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., in March, the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has targeted the Charleston area for an intensive advertising campaign beginning in January. Southern Skyways has been pleased with the volume of advance ticket sales already generated by the Charleston market, Atkinson said.

Passenger boardings at the Charleston airport are down about 8.5 percent from last year, according to the airport manager, mainly due to the demise of Independence Air, which provided more than 3,200 seats a month to Washington, D.C., before it folded.

"Frankly, we expected to end the year farther down than that," Atkinson said. "But it ended up being our second-best year ever, and we were a lot less impacted than other cities who lost Independence service."

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