Officials representing the city, the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority and Jetport officials saw a $2.5 million project completed on Sunday afternoon, an attempt for the construction to beat …
Officials representing the city, the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority and Jetport officials saw a $2.5 million project completed on Sunday afternoon, an attempt for the construction to beat heavy rains which were expected to soon arrive.
Jetport Manager Mark Fidler assisted Hinkle Construction workers as they put the finishing touches on much of the construction for the 700-foot extension to the aviation facility's runway.
This extension to a more versatile 6,200 feet was planned and designed over the past two years, and made possible with a $2.5 million grant from the Tennessee Aeronautical Commission.
State Rep Kevin Brooks, with assistance from state Sens. Mike Bell and Todd Gardenhire, and state Rep. Dan Howell, was instrumental in the Cleveland Airport Authority's ability to secure the grant.
The grant also required a small match from the Cleveland City Council.
The contract was awarded to Hinkle Construction of Paris, Ky., and construction began June 26.
Fidler was pleased that the project went smoothly over the previous four months, and no one was injured on the job.
Hinkle, and its officials, had a slight advantage in securing the contract, and completion of the construction. Hinkle also had the contract on the Jetport's original runway construction.
The 700-foot extension, with concrete 18 inches deep, will increase the length of the arrival/departure surface to 6,200 feet.
The increased distance will more easily accommodate larger aircraft, for longer distances. Many will also stop in Cleveland to refuel.
Fidler said Sunday the longer Jetport runway is available "immediately" for airplanes taking off. Use of the new surface for landing will be delayed for a short while, until the Federal Aviation Authority installs and approves the instrumentation approach for the extended runway.
The final construction steps, which were moved up Sunday afternoon, included the installation of lights along the taxiway and runway. Hinkle workers were also busy with the runway's threshold markings, numbers and lines.
There was also a little backhoe work and grading still going on.
"The heavy lifting is done (with Sunday's work)," said Fidler. "We will now be able to use the new surface, although there is still a little cleanup left."
"This runway extension will make the airport more accessible, useable, and safer," Fidler added. It is also expected to be more appealing to larger customers, and should enhance the glowing reputation of the new, regional facility.
Hinkle officials said they have used 40 to 50 workers on the project, including subcontractors. Around a dozen continued to rush through Sunday's tasks, in an effort to beat inclement weather.
A portion of the existing 5,500-foot runway was unavailable during the four-month construction period, and Fidler said this had an impact on Jetport business.
"Our fuel sales were down slightly during this time," he said. Fidler and other airport officials expect fuel sales to increase in the future, with the arrival and departure of larger aircraft on cross-country flights.
Fidler added that the runway extension will also be well received by larger corporations and industries that may have an economic interest in Cleveland and Bradley County.
Another positive for the project is that it came in under budget. The jetport manager said some of the excess funds are being used for an Airport Geographical Information Survey.
"This will update the airport's layout plan, and assist the FAA in updating its instrument approach procedures," he said.
The only downside to the runway construction were the checkered orange and-white-flags flying on the backhoes. They apparently had no positive impact on the Tennessee football team's visit to Alabama.
Many of the Bluegrass State-based Hinkle workers are hoping that trend continues, as the Volunteers will play at Kentucky this Saturday. There were a number of University of Kentucky caps displayed at the Jetport on Sunday.
"The heavy lifting is done (with Sunday's work). We will now be able to use the new surface, although there is still a little cleanup left. This runway extension will make the airport more accessible, useable, and safer." — Mark Fidler
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