County OKs FAA pact

Related to summer construction project

The Marquette County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement between the county and the Federal Aviation Administration at Tuesday night's meeting. The agreement is for the FAA to perform a flight check on navigational aids that will be replaced and repositioned at Sawyer International Airport this summer. These aids need to be repositioned because the airport will be rehabilitating the runway and shortening it by 3,300 feet at the runway's north end over the summer. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — A non-federal reimbursable agreement between the county and the Federal Aviation Administration was approved by the Marquette County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The agreement is for the FAA to perform a flight check to inspect navigational aids that will be replaced and repositioned this summer at Sawyer International Airport, a required relocation of the beacons as the runway will be shortened over the summer.

“We are going through a very extensive construction season this coming year,” said Duane DuRay, Sawyer airport manager. “We’re going to be shortening our runway from 12,300 feet down to 9,070 feet. With that, there’s a lot of changes going on. We’re going to have to readjust our approach for runway 1-9; we’re going to be moving a lot of navigational aids.”

The navigational aids that will be replaced and/or repositioned include precision approach path indicators, the rotating beacon and runway end identifier lights.

“We’re replacing our PAPIs, which is a precision approach path indicator; it’s a just an instrument or navigation aid that helps pilots aim for the runway,” DuRay said. “We’re also going to be replacing our rotating beacon, but with a lot of these changes, it requires recertification of these navigational aids, because, being that they are used for critical landing procedures, they need to make sure that they’re precise in their alignment and installation.”

DuRay explained that the FAA flight check will certify that the replaced and repositioned instruments are functioning correctly.

“They’ll come in, fly the approach, they’ll make sure that all the instruments that we’ve replaced are correctly aligned and in check with all the parameters necessary,” he said.

The cost for the FAA to perform the flight check is about $12,460, to be paid up front by the county, which serves as the airport sponsor. The amount will be credited to the local share of the project, with any overpayment reimbursed to the county at the close of the FAA grant.

“That is all tied into our current FAA grant for this runway project and we’ll get that back as a refund at the end of the project. This will go against our share of the project,” DuRay said.

DuRay explained that while the FAA is still putting the reimbursable agreement together for execution, he wanted to get board approval as soon as possible to avoid any delays in the runway construction projects.

The construction at the airport will begin June 4, with four of the five phases slated for completion over the summer, and the fifth phase, crack sealing, planned for the following year, he said.

According to documents provided to the board, the four phases of construction, flight check and FAA approval are expected to be completed in September.

At the close of DuRay’s presentation to the board, Commissioner Bill Nordeen asked if the runway could potentially be re-extended in the future if needed.

DuRay said the 3,300 foot section that will no longer be part of the runway won’t be removed — rather, it will be “painted in stripes so that it’s properly marked so that aircraft will not use it to operate,” and could be repaved for use if it is needed in the future.

Nordeen also asked if the reduced runway length would affect the ability of large planes, such as the Russian Antonov An-124 jet that landed at Sawyer in April, to land at the airport.

“It needs a little over 9,000 feet (to land) when it’s fully loaded and fully fueled,” DuRay said. “In their last trip in here, conversations took place and they said, granted, they wouldn’t be able to fly in with a full load of fuel and a full load of cargo — they’d have to lessen the load. But even with the operation that they ran, they’re not running a full load, they could easily operate with a 9,000-foot runway.”