By Tiffany Sukola, April 19, 2013, Columbia Basin Herald
Port of Moses Lake officials expect to see increased Boeing testing at the Grant County International Airport once a $4.4 million ramp improvement project is completed.
The project includes replacing close to 6 acres of pavement at the airport and bringing the section’s weight capacity to 1 million pounds. Construction began on April 3.
Crews have 90 days to complete the project.
The section of ramp being replaced is unusable and has been blocked off for many years, according to Rich Mueller, the port’s director of facilities and operations, this week. The port, or any of its tenants, can’t use the ramp to park aircraft or have planes fire up their engines because of the condition of the pavement, he said.
“The pavement is in such bad shape,” Mueller said. “You can drive a vehicle across it or pull an aircraft on or off with a tug, but a heavy aircraft would destroy what was left.”
Broken pavement would also get sucked into plane engines.
“Right now we can’t use it, we can’t serve anyone and we can’t generate income with it,” said Mueller.
Improving the ramp’s weight capacity is vital for future operations at the port, he said.
Boeing is expected to bring more of its 747-8 aircraft to Moses Lake for testing once the new ramp is completed, Mueller said.
Aviation Technical Services is also expected to need more space for parking planes if their operations increase, Mueller said. The ATS hangar is located near the section of ramp being replaced, he said.
“If they keep moving like we hope they will, there may be a handful of 747’s out here that need places to park,” Mueller said.
Port Commissioner Kent Jones said a Federal Aviation Administration grant is funding 90 percent of the project. The port is responsible for the other 10 percent, or about $444,000. Jones said replacing the ramp is part of the long-term improvement plan for maintaining and rehabilitating the port’s facilities.
“We’ve known for years we wanted to do this,” he said. “This is all part of what we need to do to maintain this facility and generate more activity.”