Yeager Runway Extension Nears Completion

Sept. 29, 2006
The airrport is also planning a rental car facility.

A new building to accommodate the currently far-flung and unsheltered rental car fleet at Charleston's Yeager Airport is being planned.

The airport's governing board on Wednesday selected N Visions of South Charleston to choose the appropriate size and configuration for the structure, to be built adjacent to the main terminal, and connected to it by a covered walkway.

"It will greatly enhance the picking-up and returning process for our rental car customers," said Rick Atkinson, Yeager's executive director. "Right now, it's pretty complicated, with all the rental car companies each having space in three different outdoor lots. It creates a lot of confusion and leaves both the customers and the cars out in the elements."

By consolidating the pick-up and return area in one place, the airport would have space to accommodate overnight parking for another commercial aircraft on the terminal apron, Atkinson added.

Funds to pay for the new building will come from an existing $2 fee being charged to rental car customers at the Charleston airport.

In other construction developments discussed Wednesday, earth-moving crews are building up the fill zones needed to extend the main runway and add safety overrun areas at both ends at the rate of 10 feet per week.

"They're on schedule to be up to grade by early November, before the asphalt plants close for the season," said Bill Forbes, construction committee chairman for Yeager's governing board, during a Wednesday board meeting.

Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson said that while the 500-foot runway extension should be open for air traffic by the end of the year, planned safety overrun zones at each end of the runway could take slightly longer.

The safety over-run zones, totaling 410 feet, will be built of aerated, crushable concrete engineered to break down under heavy weights. The Engineered Materials Arresting System is designed to bring aircraft traveling at speeds of up to 70 knots safely to a stop should they have to roll beyond the main runway while aborting takeoffs or overshooting landings.

Walls have been erected for a new 190-by-120-foot hangar at Yeager's general aviation area, which when completed, will be large enough to house a regional jet needing maintenance or large corporate jets such as the Gulfstream 5. The structure is expected to be complete in about four weeks.

A pre-construction environmental review is underway for removing the top of a knoll in the Northgate area near the airport. The knoll's presence requires commercial pilots departing Yeager to make sure their aircraft are light enough to assure clearance in the event of the loss of an engine during takeoff. On long-haul flights on hot days, that sometimes means bumping passengers to meet weight limits.

Yeager officials plan to reduce the knoll by 70 feet at its highest point, moving an estimated 800,000 cubic yards of earth in the process. That project is not expected to begin earlier than October 2007.

In other action, Yeager's board of directors voted to endorse United Airlines' proposal to operate a new flight connecting Washington's Dulles International Airport with the airport serving Beijing.

The Washington-Beijing route would improve service to West Virginians traveling to and from China, Atkinson said.

"Right now, our connections are pretty good on flights going to China, but there's a six-hour layover in Chicago on the return flights," he said. "With four flights a day to and from Dulles, service would improve for travelers here."

Atkinson said about 10 percent of passengers departing Yeager are making international flights. He added that China is the state's sixth largest overseas trading partner.

A new hangar big enough to accommodate a C-130 or an even larger C-17 transport aircraft should be complete on the Air National Guard side of Yeager Airport by 2011, said Bill Peters, chairman of the airport board's military affairs committee.

The new structure will replace the 55-year-old hangar now in use by the 130th Airlift Wing. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., added funding for the $17.3 million maintenance facility to the new defense appropriations bill.

Atkinson, after receiving a favorable performance review, received a $5,000 increase to his annual salary to $98,000, following a previous formula of setting his salary at 5 percent less than the national average for airport directors of his tenure.

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