By Mike Prager The Spokesman-Review
SPOKANE, Wash. — Workers this week are expected to finish pouring concrete for the $30 million extension of the main runway at Spokane International Airport.
The new 11,000-foot runway won’t be opened to air traffic until late September to allow required testing of the instrument landing system.
Once open, the longer runway will allow airlines to operate in Spokane during the hot days of the summer without having to reduce baggage and passenger loads.
Heat reduces lift on a plane’s wings, forcing it to use additional runway to take off. The old 9,000-foot runway wasn’t long enough to get a fully loaded plane safely off the ground during the heat, said Todd Woodard, airport spokesman
“Operationally, it causes a lot of problems,” he said.
In addition, airlines in the future might be able to offer longer flights because the runway will have the length to accommodate greater takeoff weights.
As a marketing tool, having an 11,000-foot main runway will put Spokane in the upper class of airports around the country, he said.
Crews for Acme Concrete Paving Inc. of Spokane have been working extra hours, sometimes as late as 7 p.m., to get the job done.
Subcontractors are Scarsella Bros. of Kent for earthwork, and Colvico Inc. of Spokane for electrical work.
The job is at the southwest end of the runway, where reinforced slabs of concrete are being poured up to 18 inches thick.
Woodard said concrete was chosen over asphalt because it turned out to be cheaper.
Reinstallation of the airport’s landing guidance system will require 1,000 hours of testing to ensure its reliability before the Federal Aviation Administration can certify the runway for use, said Virgil Plaster, operations supervisor at the airport.
The extended runway has already passed one flight test and is due for a second flight test next month.
“We anticipate the ILS (instrument landing system) will be fully operational by Sept. 23,” Plaster said.
Funds for the work are coming from the airport’s passenger facility charge of $4.50 per flight.
The extension work this year was preceded by a $7 million job in 2009 to improve the gradient of a portion of the existing main runway to allow it to shed water more efficiently, Woodard said. That part of the work was financed through last year’s federal economic stimulus measure.
Next year, work will shift to the northeast end of the runway where another $30 million will be spent to raise the grade by 6 to 7 feet.
As originally built, the northeast end of the runway has a dip that can easily be seen from the ground, and the FAA wants that corrected, officials said.
The 2011 project is being financed through the airport’s share of an 8 percent federal ticket tax and an air carrier fuel tax.
In addition, the airport this summer is finishing up construction of new pavement around the older terminal gates.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, www.spokesman.com