June 9, 2011

Hangar Relocation Looming For Memphis Airport

Major changes could be looming for the Briggs-Smith Memorial Airport if the Missouri Department of Transportation has its way. MoDOT engineers have proposed the relocation of the airports hangar facilities to remove them from the Runway Protection Zone (RPZ).

The Federal Aviation Administration performs reviews for runway obstructions, creating a RPZ in direct line of flight for airport runways. The RPZ currently covers the bulk of the airport land located west of the runway. It starts at 500 wide directly west of the runway, running west 1000 feet while expanding to 750 in width at the west end.

That cone of protected area encompasses the entire hangar area, before ending approximately 150 feet east of the existing parking area, fuel tank and pilot's building off of Highway 136.

"The obstruction survey performed as part of the new GPS approach development has identified the hangars as obstacles, which will impact the minimums for approaches," said engineer Brian Garkie of Crawford, Murphy and Tilly, Inc. of St. Louis. "FAA does not allow buildings or other places of public gathering to be located inside the RPZ."

The city's airport committee, which consists of pilots based out of the Memphis airport, had indicated their preference for using existing federal funding to pay for different projects.

One such project recommended by the pilots, was construction of a short connecting taxiway at the end of the runway to allow two planes to pass as one is entering and one is exiting the runway.

Garkie indicated that MoDOT engineers would not sign off on this project, noting the anticipated low number of occurrences of the traffic volume do not warrant the expenditure, or at least not placing it as a higher priority than the hangar relocations.

The engineering firm has proposed a four phase construction plan for the airport's future that would utilize the annual $150,000 federal aid packages while also seeking to identify additional funding sources.

The first phase of the plan would call for the expansion of the apron area located southeast of the hangars from its existing size of 250' x 100' to a size of 300' x 186'. In addition to the expansion, the project would sealcoat the existing apron and taxiway, while removing the old taxiway, which falls within the RPZ.

The estimated cost of the project is $306,000, with the city responsible for a 5% match, or approximately $15,300.

Garkie suggested the project go to design in the fall of 2011 with construction scheduled for sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.

With a significantly higher price tag, the hangar relocation projection would be phase two of the engineering firm's proposal.

If federal funds were allocated for the 2012 apron project, it would take four years to accumulate enough federal grant funding to cover the anticipated $600,000 cost of construction of a new 6-unit pre-engineered T-hangar, to be constructed southeast of the apron and taxiway. The plan would include construction of a concrete apron around the hangars as well as a cement taxiway to connect to the existing apron and taxiway. The city would be on the hook for 5% of the project cost, or approximately $30,000.

The proposed construction date for phase two would be summer of 2015.

Another four-year wait would be required to accumulate funding for phase three, the construction of second six-unit pre-engineered T-hangar to be added on to the new hangar site. The old hangars could then be demolished and removed from the RPZ. The price tag for phase three was estimated at $585,000 with a timeline of 2018 or 2019 projected for construction.

Garkie noted that all cost estimates were based on 2011 prices, meaning those figures would likely increase in the future.

The city council was also made aware of current legislative debate on proposals to raise the local match amount on grant expenditures from 5% to 10%.

Alderman Chris Feeney noted such a change could limit future upgrades at the airport.

"Even with 95% of these upgrades funded by federal and state grant money, it still represents a significant challenge for the city to fund $7,500 a year above and beyond the typical costs of running the airport," he stated.

The city council has taken the engineering recommendation under advisement and is expected to make a decision in the coming months.

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