By Harve Allen
OKLAHOMA CITY – During their March meeting, members of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission approved state grants for capital improvement projects at both Shawnee Municipal Airport and Eaker Field in Durant.
The Commission approved a maximum $275,000 grant for the City of Shawnee to construct a new, 4,000-square-foot terminal building at the airport. The new building will replace the existing terminal that was built in 1953 and which has been showing signs of deterioration.
State aviation officials said the total cost of the new terminal building was originally estimated at $550,000 with the City of Shawnee contributing half of the cost. The city has since garnered an additional $415,645 from other sources, including a federal economic development grant that was secured by Oklahoma Congresswoman Mary Fallin, which brings the total price tag for the new terminal to $965,645. Those extra dollars have allowed the city to build a larger terminal building with more amenities as well as more office and meeting space.
Shawnee City Manager Brian McDougal told commissioners that the city had decided to apply for a state grant after hearing from Aeronautics Commission staff nearly three years ago that receiving funds for a new terminal building was a distinct possibility.
“The new terminal building is going to be gorgeous. The one we’ve been operating out of for the last 57 years needs to be replaced,” McDougal said.
Shawnee Municipal Airport boasts a 5,600-foot runway, which is long enough to accommodate most jet aircraft. According to the most current figures available, 37 aircraft are based at the airport including 32 single-engine aircraft. The airport averages about 5,000 operations (take offs and landings) annually, many from aircraft owned or operated by local employers such as Exxon Mobil Chemical, Wolverine Tuble, Inc. and Eaton Corp.
The grant awarded to Shawnee’s airport is just the second grant in Aeronautics Commission history that has gone exclusively toward construction of a new terminal building. The first such grant was approved for Durant Eaker Field last November. The City of Durant recently broke ground on the 8,000-square-foot terminal that will cost nearly $1.4 million to build.
“It’s very important that our regional business airports across the state have terminals that are both aesthetically pleasing to the eye but also functional, providing amenities that today’s air travelers need and expect. They are truly front doors to their communities. Needless to say, we are pleased to provide state grants to these very worthwhile projects,” Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird said.
Commissioners also approved a $57,000 state grant to the City of Durant for various projects at Eaker Field involving completion of the second and final phase to realign the parallel taxiway system, improve the runway safety area and relocate the runway lights. The total cost of the projects is approximately $2.3 million, which will be paid for by a combination of local, state and federal funds including $2.2 million from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Aeronautics Commission officials said that the taxiway pavements at Eaker Field were built in 1943 and have deteriorated substantially over the years. Business owners and private individuals who have regularly flown their aircraft to the airport have told Durant leaders that they are now scared to fly there because of concerns over loose chunks from the taxiway damaging their jet engines or propellers. This final phase of realigning Eaker Field’s parallel taxiway system should alleviate those fears.
“The safety of pilots and their passengers who use our public airports is priority one. But we should also help protect the investment businesses and individuals have made in their aircraft,” Bird said. “The majority of users of general aviation aircraft are businesses, the same businesses that fly in and out of our communities every day and who also create jobs within those communities.”
An aircraft for a business is much like a line of credit. It’s another very effective tool because it makes them that much more efficient and ultimately improves their bottom line.”
According to the most recent data available, 55 aircraft are based at Eaker Field, which includes mostly single-engine aircraft, and more than 50,000 operations (take offs and landings) took place at the airport in 2008, the last year official figures were available.
Several local businesses regularly use Eaker Field for transacting commerce including companies such as Big Lots, Cardinal Glass and Sundowner Trailers as well as the Choctaw Casino, just to name a few.
Taxiway reconstruction projects in Ada and Okmulgee have also received state grants recently through the Aeronautics Commission’s Capital Improvement Program.
Nearly 68 percent of Aeronautics Commission revenues are expended on airport infrastructure.