By Paul Gottlieb, January 20, 2013, Peninsula Daily News
Federal grant funding of nearly $1 million is being sought for a road extension project at William R. Fairchild International Airport to provide aircraft with better access to the hangar complex — and access to a new terminal building expected to be built in the distant future.
Port of Port Angeles commissioners approved the request for the $929,484 grant, which port officials are confident they will receive, at their regular meeting last week.
The port would match the 90 percent Federal Aviation Administration grant with $103,276 from the port’s FAA entitlement funding, bringing the project’s estimated cost to $1.03 million.
Bid openings are expected in late June, with construction targeted for about May or June 2014, port Executive Director Jeff Robb said.
The hangar complex at Fairchild — the largest airport in Clallam and Jefferson counties — contains eight multiple-aircraft hangars and space for six more.
Commission President Jim Hallett said the improvement project ties in with a proposal to remove some Douglas fir trees in Lincoln Park, which is owned by the city of Port Angeles, to improve flight access to an adjacent airport runway.
“All that is predicated on a viable airport,” Hallett said.
“We also derive economic benefits.”
The federal funding is part of “a great program with dedicated funds for aviation infrastructure,” Commissioner John Calhoun added.
The FAA has said that some of the park’s trees are too tall for the approach to an airport runway and a Lincoln Park Master Plan, which must be approved by the City Council, calls for removal of all trees tall enough to possibly obstruct flight paths into the adjacent Fairchild airport.
The port is “very confident” the grant will be approved, Robb said in a later interview.
“We met with [FAA officials]. It’s consistent with our master plan, and they support our master plan,” he said.
A new terminal building south of the existing terminal is part of that master plan.
The road “eventually will serve the terminal building when the terminal building gets relocated” south of the existing structure, Robb said.
“I would expect that’s many years out, but we’ve got to build for the future.”
The roadway would be built between the existing terminal building and Rite Bros. Aviation Inc.
It’s part of a plan to develop hangar space west of the existing hangars and to build runway aprons for aircraft.
Rite Bros. also eventually must relocate as the hangar complex is further developed with more hangars and expanded parking for itinerant aircraft, which land and take off daily, port Airport and Marinas Manager Doug Sandau said.
Rite Bros. owner Jeff Well said Friday he was planning to move four years ago.
“The economic environment didn’t allow that,” Well said.
Rite Bros. is located in three separate hangars.
“That’s really ineffective,” Well said.
“I’d really love to have one, big, single facility instead of going from building to building and things like that.”
Itinerant aircraft such as corporate jets — and emergency aircraft operated by Airlift Northwest — must now park on taxiways, Sandau said.
“Part of this whole move is a reshuffling, a reorganization so we are more conducive to supporting corporate activity.”
Fairchild was developed from 1934 through 1948, and was transferred from Clallam County to the port in 1951.
It was redeveloped to support World War II military operations, with the terminal built on the runway’s edge.
“As time goes on, things change,” Sandau said.
“This is part of that continuum.
“If things really pick up and develop, we may have to modify the [airport] design to support bigger aircraft.”
Kenmore Air — a regional airline that offers the only scheduled passenger flights on the North Olympic Peninsula — serves Fairchild with three daily flights.
There were 6,160 Kenmore Air passenger enplanements and deplanements at Fairchild in 2012, a 21 percent drop from 2011.
Prompted by low demand, Kenmore cut service from five flights to three June 1, 2011.
Kenmore’s falling under the annual level of 10,000 enplanements and deplanements means the port will no longer receive the FAA entitlement funding. The last year it was received was 2012.
“The big sea change for [Kenmore] was getting their operating costs in line,” Sandau said.
“The only way they could do that and continue operating here was to reduce the number of flights in half.
“They got their operating costs in half, and now they are in the black.
“Hopefully, eventually, we can start adding more flights.”
Kenmore Marketing Manager Craig O’Neil would not comment Friday on whether Kenmore is “in the black.”
“We feel like we have scaled operations closer to demand and feel good about the steps we’ve taken,” O’Neil said.
The company is selling flights through the end of December, he added.
“We are committed to keep going at the rate we have been.”