FD Regional Airport

Looking to put a cap on pavement projects

-Messenger file photo by Joe Sutter

Water sprays off the plane’s propeller as a water cannon salute douses the first flight out of Fort Dodge Regional Airport bound for Minneapolis/St. Paul in March.

-Messenger file photo by Joe Sutter Water sprays off the plane’s propeller as a water cannon salute douses the first flight out of Fort Dodge Regional Airport bound for Minneapolis/St. Paul in March.

The Fort Dodge Regional Airport has made the most of its funds by improving the infrastructure of the airport in recent years.

Since 2011, the airport has produced $12 million worth of projects, according to Rhonda Chambers, director of aviation.

The city’s cost share has been $1.2 million, Chambers said.

As part of that investment, the airport runways have received major rehabilitation, the terminal has been expanded and renovated, Taxiway B was rehabilitated and, most recently, the general aviation apron was reconstructed in 2016.

“We have been fortunate to complete those projects in the master plan in a relatively tight time frame,” Chambers said. “We have made a lot of improvements thanks to the support of not only the FAA, but also the city for that 10 percent match.”

The master plan dictates which projects can be completed.

The latest major project in the works is the complete reconstruction of the commercial aviation ramp.

“Last year we did the general aviation ramp, so the next project is to reconstruct the commercial apron,” Chambers said. “This will be a full reconstruction.”

The commercial aviation ramp serves as the primary apron at the airport. It is used for both daily scheduled airline operations and air charter operations.

It was originally constructed in 1949, according to Chambers.

The last time that ramp was overlaid with concrete was 1972, she said.

In 1990 and 2007, preventive maintenance was completed, but the pavement is no longer effective to maintain the functionality of the apron, according to Chambers.

“The existing apron is a maintenance headache with FOD safety issues,” Chambers said. “The apron has been plagued with shattered slabs, corner breaks and slabs which contain linear cracks.”

Plans for the reconstruction will be much more extensive this time around, according to Chambers.

“We are going to tear it all out and start over,” Chambers said. “Anything that was added to it will be torn out.”

Work on the apron will be completed in three phases.

“We have to do it in phases to keep the ramp partially open to traffic,” Chambers said.

The project is estimated to cost $1.78 million.

The Federal Aviation Administration will provide $1,602,099.

The city will need to provide $178,000.

Bid letting for the project is underway.

The start date is dependent upon the award of an FAA grant, Chambers said.

Hangars will be the next area of improvement the airport will look to tackle, according to Chambers.

All of the hangars at the airport are at least 30 years old, with the majority of them having been built in the 1960s and 70s.

Budget

The total budget for the Fort Dodge Regional Airport for fiscal year 2017-18 is $622,000, Chambers reported.

Airport revenues are $353,700.

Tax allocation is $268,000.

Third destination added

In 2016, for the first time ever, the Fort Dodge Regional Airport began offering destinations to airports in three major cities: Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois, Lambert St. Louis International Airport and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“It’s unprecedented for Fort Dodge to have three cities to go to,” Chambers said. “It’s never happened. It’s not just three cities, it’s three large cities.”

For about 30 years, Northwest Airlink, Delta Airlines and Great Lakes Airlines provided flights from Fort Dodge to the Twin Cities. But when Great Lakes left, the connection to Minneapolis and St. Paul was lost.

The addition of Minneapolis as a destination should prove successful, according to Shane Storz, Air Choice One chief executive officer.

Air Choice One is the current carrier.

“We have done quite well in Fort Dodge with Chicago and St. Louis, but we feel like we have enhanced that with Minneapolis,” Storz said.

Storz said the top challenge going forward will be recruiting pilots.

“The continuous challenge for anybody in the industry today is getting pilots — qualified pilots,” Storz said.

Federal regulations that went into effect Aug. 1, 2013, require pilots to have more experience before they can fly commercial airliners. Additional regulations that went into effect Jan. 4 also require pilots to have longer rest periods between flights.

Storz said another priority will be attracting new business to the airport.

“There’s a great asset there in Fort Dodge,” Storz said. “It’s a beautiful airport, it’s a good-looking terminal. So it’s about getting folks to utilize the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.”

Adding to its fleet

In 2016, Air Choice One also added to its fleet.

A Cessna Caravan EX was added in July.

“It’s the next generation of Cessna Caravan,” Storz said. “It brings more horsepower and more speed. It’s a really good fit for Fort Dodge and we hope to expand off that aircraft.”

The addition was made in conjunction with Air Choice One’s territory expansion, according to Stefanie Kitcher, marketing manager for Air Choice One.

Air Choice One’s newest territory is Minneapolis, Minnesota, she said.

The new aircraft includes several features that are designed to improve customers’ flying experience, Kitcher said.

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