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‘Still up in the air’

Completion of airport’s new runway still unknown

October 11, 2012
By Katie Kuba - Senior Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

One could say things are still "up in the air" as to when construction work on a runway at the Elkins-Randolph County Regional Airport will be complete.

The Elkins-Randolph County Airport Authority met this week to discuss, among other topics, progress on the construction of Runway 5-23, which is in the midst of being refurbished. Work on the new Runway 5-23 got under way May 14, but the authority has apparently encountered some turbulence along the way, Airport Authority President Nils Heinke indicated.

"The current status is that it is not completed yet," Heinke said during Tuesday's meeting, noting the asphalt already has been laid. "We are still having some drainage, electrical, grading and other minor issues."

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Casey Houser
Members of the Elkins-Randolph County Regional Airport Authority met this week and discussed the status of construction work on a new runway at the airport. Several issues must be ironed out before the new runway will open, officials said.

Chapman Technical Group, the Airport Authority's engineering and design company, created a blueprint for the new runway. The blueprint reduced the runway's width from 150 feet to 70 feet based on a Federal Aviation Administration classification, assigned to the airport based on the type of air traffic that primarily frequents the airport. The design plan also called for the removal of the old lighting system and the installation of a new one, Heinke said.

The primary contractor, Mountaineer Contractors of Kingwood, laid the foundation for the new runway, while subcontractor West Virginia Paving of St. Albans and Elkins put down the pavement.

The major problem?

"The asphalt has been completed, but some of the specifications in thickness and in smoothness are not quite within the FAA-mandated guidelines, as well as in the contract specifications," Heinke said.

What will be done about that mismatch will likely be determined at an upcoming meeting between the Airport Authority and the FAA, he said, given that the FAA grants funded the project.

Heinke said that although the actual runway measurements may not comply with the specifications set forth by the FAA, it's important for people to understand how difficult it is to meet such precise specifications.

"The (FAA) specifications are very, very tight compared to a highway," he said.

"There is very little wiggle room. Also, this does not necessarily mean that (the runway) would be unsafe for landing. It only means that the specs as stated in the contract do not match (the work that's been done). Will it have to be removed and redone? We don't know that.

"The main thing that has to be understood is that it does not imply that we have an unsafe runway," he continued. "That's still up in the air."

The Airport Authority expects to meet with FAA representatives within the next 10 days.

Officials also viewed a blueprint for a proposed airport fly-in campground drawn up by Chapman Technical Group. If it comes to fruition, the fly-in campground would be the second one in the state, Heinke said. The campground would incorporate individual campsites, as well as a bathhouse, containing restrooms and men's and women's bunks in case of inclement weather.

Heinke said the odds that the campground would thrive are favorable.

"There is a very high per capita ownership of private aircraft in surrounding states, such as Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio," he said. "It's a huge market that's untapped, and these people would bring a lot of money into the area."



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