Construction Will Slow Wheeler Airport Air Traffic

March 6, 2006
A major runway reconstruction project at Wheeler Downtown Airport will begin Monday, shutting down 60 percent of the air traffic for three months.

A major runway reconstruction project at Wheeler Downtown Airport will begin Monday, shutting down 60 percent of the air traffic for three months.

Airport officials say they can?t recall such an extensive shutdown of the 79-year-old airport, which they tout as one of the busiest corporate aviation airports in the country.

They acknowledged the inconvenience but said the work will improve safety.

?I think the pilots understand the benefits that will come in the end,? airport manager Michael Roper said.

At noon Monday, the south section of the main runway, known to pilots as Runway 1-19, and the entire cross runway, Runway 3-21, will be closed as crews replace the pavement and electrical systems at the runways? intersection.

Only the 3,300-foot north section of the main runway, which was reconstructed last year, will remain open.

That means the airport will be closed to all jets, including commercial airliners, corporate jets and multiengine aircraft.

Training exercises, such as touch-and-go and stop-and-go landings, will not be allowed.

Pilots of single-engine and light-twin-engine aircraft still will be able to use the airport, Roper said. They will need to obtain permission 24 hours in advance.

Crews will work on the intersection 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Roper said.

Airport officials said they expect most of the diverted air traffic to go to Kansas City International Airport.

After that work is completed June 1, the cross runway will reopen, and crews will start working on the south end of the main runway.

The entire project will be completed in August, in time for the Aviation Expo and Airshow scheduled for Sept. 16 and 17.

Brad Middleton, charter operations coordinator for ATD Flight Systems, said the flight training business at the airport will remain open.

Middleton said pilots taking off from the shortened runway will face some challenges, such as making an emergency landing should the engine fail after takeoff. But overall, he said, the work will be worth the hassle.

?After this is finished,? Middleton said, ?we will have a state-of-the-art runway that won?t have to be touched for 25 years.?

Roper said crews ? as they already have done with the north section of the main runway ? will replace the intersection with 14 inches of concrete and six inches of impervious asphalt. ?The smoother runway will give pilots more control of their aircraft,? he said.

The rest of the cross runway, which is about 2,000 feet shorter than the main 7,000-foot runway, is scheduled to be reconstructed next year, Roper said.

The runway work is part of a $70 million improvement plan for the airport. That plan includes a relocation of the fuel farm, new hangars, extension of the runway area, and realignment of Lou Holland Drive.

The work might directly affect only airport users. But indirectly, Roper said, the entire metropolitan area will benefit.

?The airport has a direct and indirect impact of $270 million a year,? he said. ?And you cannot calculate the benefit of a businessman flying in to this airport and then being able to reach the business center of this metropolitan area in five minutes.?

First glance

? Runway reconstruction will shut down 60 percent of the normal air traffic at Wheeler Downtown Airport.

? Pilots still able to use the airport are required to get 24-hour prior permission to land or take off from the airport. To do that, they can call the airport manager?s office at (816) 513-0805 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Kansas City Star

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