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Pilot Briefing: Saving Airports

Extreme airport makeover

An Alabama airport is revitalized
An Alabama airport is revitalized

September Briefing
In 2004, obstructions in the approach and departure path prevented use of 20 percent of the available runway length (left), aerial view of the recently reconstructed runway at the Chilton County (Alabama) Airport (02A) (right).

On October 7, 1999, the headline of the Clanton Advertiser proclaimed, “State Could Close County’s Airport in March.” Because of numerous safety related issues, Alabama’s Chilton County Airport (02A) had been designated a problem airport, or, “a facility not meeting the minimum safety standards for licensing by the Alabama Department of Transportation Aeronautics Bureau and having no plan to correct the deficiencies.”

Recognizing that a functional airport facility not only provides critical aviation services to residents, but also serves as a vital component of regional economic develop efforts, the Chilton County Airport Authority initiated a program to modernize the airport infrastructure. The challenges seemed overwhelming. The airport had been without an operating license for more than 25 years; the asphalt surface of the runway and parking apron had not been maintained or paved for the same period; and obstructions in the approach path to the runway prevented the use of approximately 20 percent of the available length.

Efforts to revitalize the airport began in earnest with financial grants received from the FAA Airport Improvement Program. Initially, improvement projects involved the purchase of property adjoining the airport in preparation for the first major upgrade to the facility in more than a quarter of a century.

In what can only be described in terms of the popular television series Extreme Makeover, the Chilton County Airport Authority initiated numerous projects to rebuild the airport infrastructure to create a functional facility that would serve the residents of Chilton County.

These projects included rehabilitation of the runway complex and application of standard safety markings and signage; installation of a new runway lighting system; and elimination of obstructions in the approach and departure paths that prevented utilization of the full runway length.

City and county governments committed to other improvements to the airport infrastructure outside of the federal grant program: elimination of obstructions adjacent to the runway complex to comply with federal and state safety requirements; providing funding for the construction of a new 10-bay hangar complex; and the installation of a jet fuel distribution system.

In 2012 the first milestone in the revitalization of the airport was achieved as the Alabama Department of Transportation Aeronautics Bureau issued an airport operating license to the Chilton County Airport for the first time in more than 25 years.

For the general aviation community, the Chilton County Airport represents one of those rare success stories.

Billy Singleton writes from Chilton County, Alabama.

Top airports

Travel & Leisure magazine recently published its annual World’s Best Airports based on reader submissions. The magazine ranks both domestic and international airline airports.

Portland International Airport, Oregon
Tampa International Airport, Florida
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Minnesota
Dallas-Love Field, Texas
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Texas

Changi International Airport, Singapore
Hong Kong International Airport, China
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, The Netherlands
Zurich Airport, Switzerland
Munich Airport, Germany

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