'We have a fantastic airport'
December 13, 2019
The grass or turf runway at the Alva Regional Airport has been a frequent topic of discussion during monthly airport commission meetings. During Monday night’s meeting, local pilot and businessman Todd Holder addressed that issue.
“I just want you to know that I appreciate that you spent the money to put the grass strip in,” said Holder. “I found myself coming in the other day in a severe wind that was directly from the west or almost from the west, and I was forced to use the grass strip. I really, really appreciated it.”
Like Alva, most airports in the area have runways aligned north to south. A strong wind almost directly perpendicular to the runway can blow and lift an aircraft wing so the plane flips upside down or is pushed off the runway as it lands. Planes fare best when landed facing into the wind.
Alva’s turf runway is aligned more east and west. It is covered in grass rather than concrete and is shorter than the concrete runway, but it offers a safer landing option in strong crosswinds. Holder said without that option he would have been forced to find another airport.
“It was a little rough. It wasn’t perfect. I don’t expect it to be perfect on a grass strip,” said Holder. “I think it’s a perfect start.” He encouraged commission members to talk to a horticulturist, perhaps through OSU Extension to find out how to “grow Bermuda grass right.”
“Sprigging certainly worked,” said Holder, “but it would be awesome if it was a little smoother.”
He closed with additional thanks saying, “We have a fantastic airport. Greg (Robison) does a terrific job taking care of us.”
Commission member Terry Turner has been pushing to get the turf runway smoothed out more. In discussion during the November meeting, the board was told Carothers would charge approximately $1,200 to use his equipment to pack the dirt and try to smooth out the runway. Board Chair Dale Logsdon wanted the airport staff to try the packer the city gave the airport, but Robison, airport manager, didn’t believe it was heavy enough to do the job.
Mayor Kelly Parker, a member of the airport commission, made a motion, seconded by Turner, to have the airport manager work to try various ways to smooth the turf runway, and the motion carried. The manager will need to work within his spending limit unless he comes back to the commission for approval of higher amounts.
Capital Improvement Plan
To complete large projects, the airport commission “banks” funds until they have enough money to proceed. Grants from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and revenue from the airport are held in reserve. This year has been one of those banking years. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also requires airports to submit and update five year plans for capital improvements.
The Alva airport recently changed engineering firms. The current engineer is Toby Baker of CEC. The commission has been waiting for plans from Garver, the former engineering firm. Those were finally received, and CEC has gone over them. They are now ready to be submitted to the FAA. The commission approved the plan to be submitted.
Terminal Apron and Taxiways Project
The airport is currently in the design phase of their next project involving the terminal apron (the concrete area around the terminal building) and taxiways between the runway and the apron. Garver Engineering handled the initial design and will complete the bid packet. They needed to know when the bids should go out.
City Business Manager Joe Don Dunham recommended the bid specifications be advertised and sent out in mid-January. The bids could be opened in February and accepted at the March meeting. Then construction could start as early as April.
Garver also wanted to know if electrical work would be done as each phase of the project progresses or if it would be done all at one time. After some discussion, commission members agreed it was more sensible to do the electrical work, such as installing taxiway lights, as the project is built. The $1.5 million project is expected to be divided into three or four phases.
The commission voted to tell Garver the bids should go out in January and include electrical in each phase of the project.
The project is expected to add six tie-down spaces for parking aircraft, close some current direct-access taxiways by painting them with markings, and improve other taxiways with lights instead of reflectors. After the bidding, the project will be under the management of CEC.
The commission approved the purchase of 100 low-lead aviation gasoline for the airport in the amount of $27,611.81. The purchase was first approved by the Alva City Council since the top spending limit for the city is $25,000 by city manager approval. Higher amounts must be approved by the council.
Airport Manager Robison said fuel sales were down some in November. He attributed it to several days of bad weather, especially the high wind speeds. Sales over the last year averaged about $14,000 per month with good months hitting $15,000 to $16,000. Last February sales were only $8,000.
In November, the airport sold $12,185.45 in fuel with $7,503.65 from low lead and $4,681.80 from Jet-A. Just over $20 in oil was sold.
Robison said a leak developed on the swivel on the avgas pump that had to be fixed. Severe northwest winds caused the east doors of the new hangers to unlatch. Robison got some secondary clamps that can be used during wind to keep the doors in place. Logsdon said some older hangars on the airport have the same problem.
The city recently switched their telephone system to VOIP (voice over internet provider), using the internet for telephone communication instead of the older copper lines. Robison said the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, sometime between 5 p.m. and midnight, the airport lost their internet. For a week, the airport was unable to provide weather information for pilots. A manual system had to be used to track credit card fuel sales. And there was no telephone service. “Something went wrong at the main phone office,” said Robison.
He said the Oklahoma Corporation Commission showed up for an inspection. The only problem was a missing warning label on the fuel pumps, and he’ll get that fixed. Robison said he was also behind on the monthly environmental reports due to the internet problem but managed to get them turned in.
Jake Darrow, who has been working for the airport, is in his last year of college and will soon be busy as a member of the baseball team. He’d like to help some nights and weekends at the airport but will need to work less.
Robison said Michael Martinez started work a little over a week ago as a part-time employee at the airport.
Thirty-three pilots signed the airport guest book in November.