You won’t see any dirt flying or major changes at Mesquite’s municipal airport any time soon. And no, you won’t be able to book a ticket to fly out of the small airport on the east side of town.
However, planning for improvements at the airport took off on Tuesday, Sept. 15 when Rick Patton and Derek Bruton, both of GDA Engineers and Sam Senn of Forsgren Associates, Inc., met with local residents and flying enthusiasts to begin the master planning process for the aviation facility.
Patton said the Master Plan process is a way to match facilities to the community and meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design standards without over- or underspending.
According to Patton, the majority of funds for the project are derived from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) which is supported through airline ticket user fees, aviation fuel taxes, and other similar revenue sources tied to aviation.
The City has $305,307 budgeted in the FY 15-16 Airport Special Revenue Fund to the Master Plan update. The FAA will reimburse the City, not to exceed $300,000 leaving the City responsible for any additional costs associated with the update.
Bill Tanner, Public Works Director, estimates the City’s financial share of the grant will be approximately $19,081. No money for the update will come from the City’s General Fund revenues. He also said the airport is currently running in the black which is unusual for a small municipal airport like Mesquite’s.
The City of Mesquite currently receives $150,000 a year in Capital Improvement Funds from the FAA.
Bruton said that doing an inventory of the current facility is the first step in the overall planning process. That includes everything from studying soil and vegetation to surrounding land uses to vehicles, lighting and signage. When that’s completed they will move on to an aviation forecast that will identify aircraft that could potentially use the airport in the future.
Patton explained that a major component of the master planning process is a socio-economic overview that includes examining neighboring airports, grant history, the local economic impact, population projections, major employers and industries and local unemployment rates. That gives the planners a better idea of the kinds of improvements or possible expansions the airport may need in the future.
While the first two steps – inventory and forecast – are estimated to take only two or three months, compiling the entire master plan will take about a year and will involve future public meetings and input. Indeed, Tanner will ask the City Council at an upcoming meeting to form an advisory committee of local pilots, businesses including golf course representatives and airport neighbors.
Patton said the ultimate goal is to make any projects associated with the airport eligible for FAA future funding.
“Commercial service at the Mesquite airport is a real stretch, so it’s not likely to happen,” Patton remarked. “We will be looking out about 10 years or so in our planning efforts.”
As part of the presentation, Patton showed several pictures taken from the motion-activated cameras already installed at the airport. They showed people on bicycles using the runway as well as a speeding car. It seems that coyotes and foxes also like to use the runway during the evenings. “That indicates to us that one of the immediate fixes we may need is a security fence around the airport,” Patton commented.
Other input sources the engineers and consultants will use for the plan include cameras that record all take-offs and landings, interviews with pilots, fuel sales records, based-aircraft records, and filed flight plans of aircraft using the airport.
“The ultimate final goal is to update our old master plan,” Tanner explained. “That’s one reason why we’ve struggled to get our entitlement money. The FAA has asked us to update our master plan. We’re looking to update the airport facility out over the next ten years.
“Over the next five years, we’ll looking at new fencing, security, taxiway and runway rehabilitation, and drainage improvements. We also want to update the master plan to find out exactly what the usages are and make sure we’re doing what we need to do.”
Patton added that the master plan tells the top officials what needs to be done and helps them decide how to spend the discretionary monies. “We have to defend our requests through the master plan process.”