Big changes are expected to land at the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport by way of Phase 2 of the airport improvement project. One of the two runways, 17/35, will get a major overhaul. Those that have used the strip say it is much needed.
City Councilman Tim Ingle – who is a pilot – says the current shape of the runway leads to some tense moments for those behind the stick. "Its unlike any runway I've landed on 22 years of flying. The runway slopes up quite drastically. In fact, if you're sitting and waiting to take off, you look up the hill and you see
1000' feet up the runway and you can't see the rest of the runway, and the same thing with the other way you roll out and the runway just falls away from you and can't tell where the end of it is and that's very challenging at night," he said.
The current runway can only handle aircraft with a 12,500 lbs. or less per wheel weight. By layering 4" of pavement over 6" of gravel, the weight limit will increase to 75,000 lbs. per wheel. That will allow most commercial and military aircraft to use the runway.
The project is expected to cost around $5M. $4.7M of that will come from Federal Aviation Administration funds. The City will match the grant with around $240,000 in money from airport revenue and passenger facility fees. None of the money will come from the general fund. The FAA money is currently tied up in Congress. Mayor Glenn Barham expects the work to begin after Aug 1.
Part of the City's joint operations deal with Sheppard includes a responsibility for the runway. Ingle says these renovations will serve both entities well for many decades. "Its going to be a win-win for the Base and the City."