Jefferson Airport pilots say new runway not needed

Chris Tucker ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 6/20/17

The president of the Jefferson County Pilots Association (JCPA) told Port of Port Townsend commissioners June 14 that a plan to replace the 3,000-foot runway at Jefferson County International Airport …

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Jefferson Airport pilots say new runway not needed

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The president of the Jefferson County Pilots Association (JCPA) told Port of Port Townsend commissioners June 14 that a plan to replace the 3,000-foot runway at Jefferson County International Airport wasn’t necessary as it is still in good condition.

“I’m disappointed to hear there’s a move to proceed with the phase one of the contract planning for runway rehabilitation,” Gary Lanthrum, president of JCPA, told port commissioners. He said the port’s plans were “premature.”

MOVING FORWARD

Eric Toews, director of planning for the port, said the port was trying to avoid a situation similar to one it currently is dealing with: the dilapidated jetties at Point Hudson.

“If we … chose not to move forward with the project on the anticipated timeframe, we would be looking probably at another five years at a minimum before funding could be made available again,” Toews said.

Port officials indicated they plan to sign a contract for the first phase sometime prior to a June 28 meeting.

The first phase is estimated to cost $248,321, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paying 90 percent, the port paying $12,416, and grant funds paying another $12,416.

PHOTOS COMPARED

Lanthrum said the runway, built in 1990, was in pretty good shape. He said he took photos of the runway in May and compared his photos to photographs taken in 2012.

“It really hasn’t changed visibly,” he said of the runway’s condition. The runway has no potholes and is straight and level. There are small weeds sprouting up through a few cracks in places, but most cracks have already been sealed shut, he said.

“When the survey was done, they actually tracked what the wear and tear was due to. Zero percent of the wear and tear was due to actual operations. It was all due to weather,” he said.

The runways are assessed by visual inspection only, he said, and the county airport’s runway scored 77 out of a possible 100. The minimum score to accommodate “small aircraft” that weigh less than 60,000 pounds is 65, he said.

BATHROOM FIRST

The runway was last inspected in 2012 and had touch-up paint work and crack sealing done in 2013. The runway looks better today than it did in 2012, Lanthrum said.

He said the airport would benefit from a bathroom more than it needs a new runway. Lanthrum explained that there is a grungy bathroom for mechanics at the field and also a bathroom at the airport cafe, which is open until 4 p.m.

If work was to be done on the runway, Lanthrum said, he favored a grind and overlay of asphalt, rather than a complete rebuild, because the airport wouldn’t have to be shut down for as long.

Lanthrum said more attention should be focused on runway maintenance, such as crack sealing and weed control. He also welcomed the port commission to meet with the pilots association.

“I will be a thorn if they wind up spending taxpayer money that’s not necessary,” Lanthrum told The Leader after the meeting.

TOO OPTIMISTIC

Eric Taylor, a self-described “local pilot, concerned taxpayer” and the JCPA treasurer, told the commission that contractor Reid Middleton determined the projected use for 2015 was 66,600 takeoffs or landings per year, or 180 per day.

“And we might have 180 operations [takeoffs or landings] a day on a real busy day in the summer. The average in real life is probably 30 percent of that,” Taylor said. “The wear and tear that they’re projecting is not really what’s happening.”

He said the planning document also is too optimistic about the type of aircraft using the airport.

“According to them, we should have three jets and half a dozen turboprops. And we don’t have any of them either. So I think the runway is getting a lot less use than what some people think it’s getting,” Taylor said.

Related:

• JCPA’s report on the runway condition is available at http://jeffcopilots.com.

• The Port’s master plan update for the airport is available at http://portofpt.com/wp-content/uploads/JCIA-MPU-Complete-Report.pdf.

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