A Kansas airport built during World War II for Boeing B-29 Superfortress training that later took advantage of its 7,851-foot-long runway to become “a mid-America fuel stop” stands to lose its revenue-producing might under a federal grant that would renovate the runway as a 5,500-foot strip.
To maintain its competitive edge—and the remaining 2,351 feet of the runway—Great Bend Municipal Airport has turned to the state for funding, with support from the community and airports users, said the airport manager.
“Great Bend’s 7,851‐foot runway has become an economic engine for the airport and the State of Kansas. Marketed by the City and the FBO tenant as a mid‐America fuel stop, fuel sales have risen from 5,000 gallons/month to 20,000 gallons/month, due to very competitive pricing, a central US location, and its long runway, a very beneficial safety bonus for cross‐country traffic, both piston and turbine,” it says.
The application adds that the airport has generated growing revenue for Great Bend, and has provided state sales tax revenue from fuel sales averaging $25,892 annually, with 71 percent of fuel sales “purchased from out of state residents and companies. A majority of these aircraft are purchasing maximum fuel (tankering) to take advantage of our fuel pricing.”
Reducing the runway’s length would put a major dent in that economic activity by making it impossible for many of the transient fuel customers to operate from the runway at high gross weights, said Martin Miller, the airport manager.
In summer, hot conditions often raise the density altitude of the airport, which sits at 1,887 feet msl, to more than 4,300 feet, meaning that aircraft performance suffers, requiring more runway for landings and takeoffs.
Miller, an AOPA member and former military A-10 Warthog pilot, said he planned to meet with state aviation officials Dec. 20 on the proposed airport improvement grant. He noted support from the city of Great Bend, the local chamber of commerce, and airport users for state backing for a project to upgrade the remaining 2,351 feet of the runway.
That support included a letter from the chief pilot of a national financial services company, noting that if the runway is shortened to 5,500 feet, “it will significantly impact the amount of fuel we can purchase from the airport.”
Other operators of aircraft including a Cessna Citation jet, a Beech King Air twin turboprop, and a Piper Aerostar piston twin supplemented the airport’s application, citing their concerns about reduced safety margins that a shortened runway would impose on flight operations.