Mineral County Airport Plans To Get An Update

May 15--SUPERIOR -- The Mineral County Airport wants their airport operating level updated with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Steve Temple, airport board chairman, explained to the commissioners on May 9 what exactly that means.

There is a great difference of opinion between the airport board, FAA, and the hangar owners at the airport as to what the current design level is and operating level is, Temple said.

Because there was some confusion and disagreement with what the current operating service is, the airport had pursued the FAA to find out.

"After the FAA looked at it, they said you know, our documents don't match," Temple said. "We're operating at one level, and there's another document that says another level."

In order to clear up the discrepancy, the FAA agreed to fund 90 percent of a new agreement and revise the master plans so that both documents agree.

"The FAA has tentatively agreed to amend our existing grant that was used to build the hangars at the time, and go in and revise our master plan," Temple said.

Temple said there was some initial concern because when altering a federal master plan, most airports have to follow NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, which manages environmental compliances.

"The danger of touching NEPA is that it's horribly expensive," Temple said.

However, the FAA said the airport doesn't have to go through the NEPA process or any environmental process.

"We have gone back to our consultants and asked if they would essentially do this work for us, and they proposed a sum of $4,800," Temple said.

Since the FAA is paying for 90 percent of work, the airport will only be on the hook for a couple hundred dollars for the work.

"At the end of the day what we're going to get is an agreement, and more importantly a process that everybody has a chance to be heard in," Temple said.

The airport also wants to give the community a chance at any time to voice any concerns they may have.

"What we would like to do is get to a point where the airport is operating at one level, which means light aircraft," Temple said. "It's not operating at a level where we encourage large twins like King Airs and jets to utilize the airport, so that's the picture."

King Airs can carry multiple passengers, where now, most planes that land at the airport are only single aircraft.

"The side issue, and the good news is that our runway is designed to handle large aircrafts," Temple said. "Larger aircrafts that decide to use the airport right now, do so at their own risk."

Although the runways can handle larger planes for landing, the taxiways aren't built for that capacity.

"The goal down the road would be to widen the taxiways so they can handle planes that are 12,500 pounds like King Air," Temple said.

The commissioners passed the motion to update the plans at the airport with the FAA.

Copyright 2014 - Clark Fork Valley Press & Mineral Independent, Plains, Mont.

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