In the air

For the first time in several years, there will be no major construction going on at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.

The last major project, which is the reconstruction of the air carrier apron, has mostly wrapped up and there are only a few items that need to be taken care of, according to Rhonda Chambers, director of aviation.

“It’s a couple sealings and seeding and sodding and those kind of end things that it just got too cold, too fast,” she said. “So we weren’t able to completely finish it.”

That project took some time to get completed because it needed to be done in phases.

“We had to do it in phases so we could still get airplanes in the airport,” Chambers said. “If we had taken it all out there wouldn’t have been a way for anything to get in.”

The apron is where the planes load and unload passengers.

Without any major construction projects this year, Chambers said the airport is planning on making a major purchase — the replacement of a snowplow.

“We got approval in August to start taking bids for a new snowplow to replace our 1989 model,” she said. “I believe that we get our money’s worth out of those pieces of equipment.”

Chambers said the airport’s maintenance staff does a great job of keeping the equipment up and running.

“Thanks to the people who have worked here, as far as maintenance,” she said. “I mean, they take good care of our equipment.”

The new snowplow will have a 16-foot wide blade, which will help clear off the runways and taxiways during snowy and icy weather.

“And it also will have the actual sand spreader box in the back,” she said. “It doubles as a dump truck in the summer, and in the winter it’s able to spread sand with de-icing capabilities for the taxiways and runways.”

Besides the new snowplow, Chambers said the primary work going on at the airport will be routine maintenance.

“We do crack sealing, we do airfield markings,” she said. “Which all have to be done under specifications from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).”

Chambers said maintenance crews can’t simply paint over lines that have faded. There are strict rules about what needs to be included and what types of paint need to be used.

“There needs to be a certain percentage of glass beads in it, and during an inspection, they come out and they measure the reflection,” she said. “So it’s not like you can go out and paint. It has to have a certain amount of reflectivity at night.”

That reflectivity helps airplanes landing at night tell exactly where the runways and taxiways are.

The repainting actually has a connection to the snowplow that the airport will be replacing.

When the snowplow is clearing the runways, Chambers said “they can tear off or take off some of the paint, so that reflectivity is less. We had a hard winter as far as ice and we did a lot of scraping, a lot of snow plow removal. That had to be down to the pavement, so those markings we’re just in the process of getting ready to paint.”

Something else the Fort Dodge Regional Airport has been involved with are discussions on drones.

Chambers said drones are becoming more and more popular and there’s talk about making people aware of the rules when it comes to flying near airports.

“They do wonderful things, but they also have to be respectful that when a person, even a recreational person, has a drone, they become a pilot,” she said. “So they have to make sure they follow the rules about operating that drone — when they operate and where they can operate.”

She has no problem with drones and believes they are beneficial.

“It’s just something that affects the airport,” she said. “So we have to make sure we’re paying attention to those things, we’re engaged in those conversations, wanting to make sure the drone technology develops. I believe it has a great use, but also that it is done safely so that the aircraft, the fixed-wing aircraft, are still safe to operate in and out of the airport.”