Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Davidson County Airport (KEXX) lighting project moves forward

Working toward improving its safety and intake of corporate jets, the Davidson County Airport Authority solidified funding for multiple projects this week, including the installation of a runway lighting system that could vastly increase the airport’s incoming traffic.

Voting unanimously Tuesday, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners approved the appropriation of $360,033 to the airport fund for design work on the project. Funding includes $324,029 in state grant revenues, $14,960 in current available matching funds within the airport fund and the transfer of $21,044 from the county’s general fund to the airport fund.

Assistant County Manager Casey Smith said the airport fund may be able to pay the money back to the general fund in the upcoming fiscal year. Smith said the county will face more local matches as the project moves toward its construction phase.

The lighting project will bring a series of runway lights to the airport that flash in sequence as pilots approach the runway, aiding particularly in bad-weather landings.

According to L.G. Cashion, chairman of the Davidson County Airport Authority, the lighting system will be “a real plus” for the airport in attracting potential business owners to town.

“When a pilot is coming in in bad weather, this has a sequence flasher, a series of five lights they get in a sequence that heads them toward the threshold of (the) runway,” Cashion said. “When the pilot sees that, he knows he’s 1,000 feet from the threshold of the runway. He can’t see anything when he is approaching the airport so when he gets down to a minimum descent altitude he has to make a decision as to whether to continue to try to land.”

Many companies, Cashion said, hold strict policies on the specifications an airport must meet to land their corporate jets. In the past, companies have steered clear of the Davidson County airport because it has no lighting system.

“It’s hard to measure now, but we know its going to be huge,” Cashion said on the project’s economic impact. “When these people come down here and look for places to take a business, they don’t drive down here in car, they come in jet and we want to be sure we have a safe place for them to land.”

The project is currently in the design phase, with final approval on the lighting structures required from the N.C. Department of Transportation. Cashion said he hopes the design phase can be concluded by October, with a construction phase following shortly after.

Cashion said a number of approvals and hurdles will factor into the project’s timetable, but he hopes the airport will have the lights in place by the end of 2017.

The lighting project ties in with multiple improvements taking place at the airport in recent months. Commissioners in March approved a grant from the DOT to move forward with the purchase of a gas station on Hargrave Road. Once obtained, the airport plans to demolish the gas station in order to better comply with Federal Aviation Authority regulations on structures around the runway.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also approved the appropriation of $238,477 for a tree obstruction removal project. The grant requires a 10 percent match of $23,848 from the airport fund and will clear trees in the runway area that violate or nearly violate the FAA’s landing area threshold.

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