The Kansas Department of Transportation has announced that an additional 10 airports will receive funding assistance in FY 2018 to repair or improve facilities, including two in southwest Kansas.
The grant, issued through the Kansas Airport Improvement Program (KAIP), already was awarded to 26 airports earlier this year. Among the additional 10 are the Dighton/Lane County airport and the Johnson/Stanton County airport. The airports received grants of $33,250 and $95,000, respectively.
“Aviation is a large part of the state’s economy, and airports are significant economic engines for that activity,” said Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson. “By providing this financial assistance, we help continue to build a strong economic tradition of aviation in Kansas.”
The KAIP receives $5 million annually through the T-WORKS transportation program. KDOT’s Division of Aviation received 130 applicants and an aggregate request of $31.7 million.
“Aviation in Kansas accounts for $20.6 billion in total economic activity,” said Aviation Director Merrill Atwater. “The General Aviation segment, which is everything except military and commercial air carriers, accounts for over $9 billion of that total activity. We are proud to help keep Kansas aviation strong and assist these airports.”
KAIP requires airport sponsors to share in project costs by financing a minimum of 5 percent and a maximum of 50 percent of project costs, depending on categories spanning modernization, equipment, design and preservation.
Mark Callender, a member of the Lane County airport’s oversight board, said the $33,250 grant he applied for last September will allow Lane County to establish height ordinances intended to preserve airspace around the airport and prevent interference of air traffic.
Callender said wind towers “really have an impact on the air traffic coming in,” noting that the ordinance would be preventative rather than reactionary.
“We felt like we needed to preserve and protect the airspace around the airport so that if it would happen, we have something in place that regulates the building of something like that so it wouldn’t interfere with the airport,” he said.
The airport is used for medical aircraft operations, agricultural air operations and general aviation, Callender said, noting that the runway isn’t big enough for a fixed-wing aircraft, but that helicopter services are facilitated.
Callender anticipates the money to be available sometime next summer, and said that in the meantime, he will be taking bids from engineering firms interested in assisting with the ordinance.
As for the grant money, Callender doesn’t anticipate spending all of it on drafting the ordinance, but said the price tag might come close to consuming the full grant.
Jacob Nix, Stanton County airport manager, said his airport's $95,000 would finance the design of reconstruction of taxiway access to the airport’s hangars, adding that he’s not sure he intends to accept the grant.
Nix said the existing taxiway is “not terrible,” but that the asphalt was laid in 1970.
Airport staff applied for the grant about four years ago, Nix said, noting that the overall functionality of the taxiway access has delayed issuance of the grant.
Nix said the application renewed automatically every year, to the point where he forgot he applied for it. He said the grant will cover design costs, “purely paperwork,” but construction costs could range anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million.
“Then they go back and apply for another grant from KDOT, and it could be two or three years again,” Nix said.
Nix said the Stanton County airport is mostly used for agricultural purposes, thus the airport’s maintenance projects don’t qualify for grants from the Federal Aviation Administration.
He added that grants from KDOT have helped smaller Kansas airports in similar situations with projects beyond the scope of county financing.