Mesa’s Falcon Field is undergoing more than $3 million in ramp and lighting upgrades to increase safety and functionality.
The airport, which holds 105 businesses just on its grounds, on top of the surrounding business district, and employs more than 1,000 people, recently completed a $1.6 million pavement rehabilitation project on aircraft parking ramps, worn to the “end of their useful life-cycle,” according to a news release.
Although there is no imminent danger, airport director Corrine Nystrom said the pavement wear was becoming close to dire.
“We were having to run our sweeper across it on a regular basis because some of it was actually starting to come up,” Nystrom said. “Of course, the last thing you want to do is take a loose piece of asphalt and let that fly up into the engine of the aircraft because now you just destroyed the engine.”
Falcon Field, a City of Mesa-owned airport, which brings in an estimated $2.3 billion locally, through the airport, on-airport businesses, the surrounding business district and support businesses, is on the hook for only 10 percent of the cost. The other 90 percent is covered by an Arizona Department of Transportation grant, according to the city.
Nystrom said the airport has maintained its significance in the city that has seen Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport expand its public airport services by leaps and bounds over the past few years and isn’t too far from Sky Harbor in Phoenix, by establishing itself as a favored hub of the private aircraft industry and as a designated “reliever” airport for the two bigger ones.
“Even though we don’t have commercial service, we support the economy in Mesa in several different ways,” said Mesa spokeswoman Dee Anne Thomas.
More than 700 aircraft are based there, according to the city. On top of the 1,000 or so workers at the airport, thousands more are employed in the surrounding district, Thomas said.
The airport accommodates more than 200,000 aircraft operations per year, Nystrom said.
“We handle a lot of traffic that if we weren’t here would otherwise be trying to get into Sky Harbor or to Gateway,” Nystrom said of the two airports that already handle most of the commercial flights into and out of the Valley.
The city has requested another $1.8 million from ADOT for the next phase of the upgrade. If the city receives the grant as expected in summer 2013, construction would begin in the fall.
On top of the pavement upgrades, lighting is also being replaced. Earlier this year, as part of the airport’s participation in the Federal Aviation Administration National Runway Safety Program, established in 2002, Falcon Field installed elevated runway guard lights at some of its runway intersections to help make the runway more visible and to prevent aircraft, vehicles, pedestrians and equipment from accidently entering the runway.
Through a grant from the FAA’s airport improvement program, all remaining runway intersections without the lights will begin to be reconstructed in summer 2013. The project is being designed already.
The runway lights themselves are also slated for upgrades. The airport is preparing to design projects to replace precision approach path indicators, lights that help pilots maintain a safe vertical approach upon landing, and runway end identifier lights which help pilots avoid reaching the end of the runway.
Right now, the devices are lit with conventional incandescent lights. The upgraded lights will use new-generation light-emitting diode technology. The LED lights will require less maintenance, last longer, use less energy, produce less heat and contain no mercury.
“As our society continues to evolve we have to be cognizant and aware of the environment in which we live and so there’s been a big push not only throughout the country but certainly in the airport industry for airports to try to utilize products that will help to sustain the environment and go green,” Nystrom said. “It’s just one of those steps we can take to help contribute to keeping the environment a good-quality environment.”
Falcon Field also recently selected an architectural firm to renovate the airport’s terminal. The renovation, part of the airport’s five-year capital improvement plan, will update the exterior, lobby, public waiting area, pilot briefing room and restrooms. The capital improvement plan also designates the airport to select a firm to upgrade directional signage, roadway landscaping and lighting around the airport during the fiscal year.
“That’s an area that will continue to gain momentum and with the improvements on (the) airport, it helps to solidify Falcon’s competitive position in the general aviation category but also adds potential for more to be developed for industry and business, too,” Mesa economic development director Bill Jabjiniak said.
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