Control Tower Nearly Built at Airport in Albuquerque

Construction on the 80-foot control tower building at Double Eagle II Airport on the West Side of Albuquerque is nearly complete, but the tower might not be operational until January.

Jim Hinde, planning director for the city's Aviation Department, said Tuesday construction on the building will be done by the end of the month. It will take several months to install equipment and get certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin operations.

"We're waiting to install the equipment until construction is complete," Hinde said. "We just don't want the different contractors getting in each others' way."

The cost of the tower was estimated at about $2.6 million before construction began, Hinde said; increases in the cost of materials drove the final cost to more than $2.8 million.

The tower is the latest project to upgrade the airport. The city installed water and sewer lines, as well as fiber-optic lines, around the airport in 2005. That $9.6 million project was funded through federal grants.

The city has improved the runways and taxiways and built a new hangar.

Improvement plans at Double Eagle II center around Eclipse Aviation's eventual move to a 300-acre Aerospace Technology Park under development at the airport. The company plans to occupy half of the park. One other company, Utilicraft Aerospace Industries, has said it plans to use a hangar at the new park.

The reconstructed north/south runway was completed in late 2004 and was the first step in an airfield improvement plan that includes extending the two existing runways and building two more runways. The reconstruction project cost about $3.1 million and was funded through grants from the state Department of Transportation and the FAA.

Hinde said the main goal is to make the airport hospitable to Eclipse, which is planning to build an aircraft manufacturing plant at the airport in the next few years.

Eclipse isn't the only prize the city is eyeing for the airport, Hinde said.

"We anticipate that Double Eagle II will be a major economic development center in the coming years focusing on aerospace industry," he said.

The next project will be extending one of the two runways at the airport to be able to handle larger corporate jets. An environmental impact assessment is now being done for that project and construction could start by the end of the year, Hinde said.

Money for these various projects has come from numerous grants from state and federal agencies like the federal Commerce and Transportation departments, as well as the FAA.

"We're doing extremely well in lining up grants for the work that needs to be done out there," Hinde said.

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