Some long needed improvements at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport will address a drainage problem and repair taxi lanes connecting to the runway.
Federal and state aviation grants are picking up $2,122,038 of the total project cost of $2,400,988. Fauquier County is providing the balance – $278,960 – with funds from the capital improvements plan budget.
The project was bid and two companies responded. At their Dec. 10 meeting, the supervisors voted unanimously without discussion to award the contract to Sargent Corporation, a construction company based in Ashland, Va.
“Work should start in the spring at the end of April. It's a 60-day project and will probably be finished in June,” said Dave Darrah, airport director.
Installation of new drain tile and an increase in the size of the retention pond should take care of drainage problems. Age and increased use caught up to the airport.
“The infrastructure is 60 years old before it was envisioned the airport would become as large as it is,”
At times, rainwater “can be running back into the hangars,” Darrah said. The repairs are necessary “so that water doesn't stand, but flows away from the hangars.”
The taxi lanes have cracks in the pavement.
The airport accommodates business and recreational flights, both planes and helicopters. It serves as a “reliever” airport for Dulles and Reagan airports.
On a “good day” there can be 100 to 150 takeoffs and landings, Darrah said. On a slow one, there may be 30 to 40. “Some are helicopter touch and goes and flights dropping off passengers and picking them up.”
Fauquier County acquired the airport in the early 1990s. It started as a grassy airstrip in the early 1950s or even earlier, Darrah said.
County officials see the airport as a driver of economic development in the Midland area and have discussed improvements to it as a way to spur business growth. An investment in public water and sewer infrastructure is needed, however.
The area around the airport is zoned for industrial use and “we'd like to bring in the right kind of business. The economic development department sees it as the front door to the county, if you will,” Darrah said.
Candidates running for the Board of Supervisors this year spoke about the growth potential of airport area.
A study commissioned by the county and released in April cited the inadequacy of the current sewer and water systems and the need for an elevated storage tank to supply water to firefighters. On-site wells supply water not potable, or safe to drink.
The study identified potential funding sources and identified gains that could be realized from additional hangar rentals, fuel sales and corporate jet traffic, which pays higher rent rates and more for fuel.
There are in excess of 15,000 licensed private and commercial pilots in the Washington, D.C. area.
“All Warrenton-Fauquier Airport needs to do is capture a small portion of this market and it will be extremely success,” the Timmons Group study said.
Darrah said a new terminal that would function as a “welcome center” is envisioned. He said the airport could serve the vacationing crowd as well, serving those who want to visit the area's wineries and horse farms and competitions.
“We can be more than a hobby airport,” he said.