The Federal Aviation Administration has allocated more than $20 million for repairs at 11 rural airports in Oregon and to help attract new flights from Salem to California, Nevada and Arizona.
Most of the money – $17.5 million – will go toward reconstructing runways at the Corvallis Municipal Airport, the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton and the Crater Lake/Klamath Regional Airport in Klamath Falls. About $2.6 million will be devoted to upgrades at airports in Hood River, Newport, Eugene, John Day, Aurora, Creswell and Florence.
Another $850,000 is allocated to Salem Municipal Airport to help launch commercial flights to California, Nevada and Arizona, according to a news release by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrats.
“Regional airports serve an important role in supporting Oregon’s economy and by expanding service, they increase opportunities for business and Oregonians,” Merkley said in the statement.
“I am gratified to see these dollars go toward expanding regional air service in Salem, to have a more accessible option for travel in and out of the mid-Willamette Valley,” Wyden said.
The total pot, $20.9 million, will support growth in rural airports that serve thousands of commercial, military, business and state flights a year.
The administration is giving $9.5 million to the Klamath Falls airport, which has had an uptick in business-related flights, according to Jonathan Teichert, city manager and acting airport director. He said the money will allow the airport to reconstruct its second runway and taxiways for use by smaller aircraft. That will free up the main runway for the Oregon Air National Guard and the U.S. Forest Service, which needs to fly air tankers to fight forest fires, he said.
“The runway’s asphalt has passed its useful life,” Teichert wrote in an email.
Money will also be used for new lighting and airfield signs.
Last year, the airport served about 35,000 flights. More than half were private flights and more than one-third were military. Shippers including FedEx and United Parcel Service accounted for only 3% of the traffic. The airport has no commercial flights.
Teichert said he expects the work to be finished in the fall of 2023.
Besides supporting recent business growth in the area, Teichert said the money paid to Rocky Mountain Construction in Klamath Falls for repairs will fuel the local economy.
“Money paid to RMC will go towards wages, materials and services with other local businesses and have a trickle-down effect throughout the community,” Teichert said.
Nearly $5 million to Pendleton
The Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton is the next big recipient, winning nearly $5 million.
Steve Chrisman, the economic development director for Pendleton and the airport, told the Capital Chronicle the money will be used to fix “hotspots” – unsafe areas for aircraft – and to correct a blindspot for air traffic controllers.
“The airport has been experiencing unprecedented growth for the last several years, which requires safe and structurally sound runways and taxiways,” Chrisman said in a statement.
The airport’s revenues soared from under $500,000 in fiscal year 2014 to an expected $2 million this fiscal year, Chrisman said. Last year the airport served 19,600 flights; that compares with nearly 14,400 flights so far this year.
“We just (passed) the halfway mark, so you can see that we are likely to shatter last year’s high,” Chrisman said.
He said traffic from the airport’s sole commercial carrier, Boutique Air, which flies three roundtrips a day to Portland with eight-seater planes, plummeted when the pandemic hit but is now rebounding. Drones account for much of the recent growth, he said.
Nearly $3 million to Corvallis
The Corvallis Municipal Airport won nearly $3 million to update lighting and reconstruct a runway built in the 1980s. Airport manager Todd Hastie said the runway accommodates 95% of the traffic at the airport, with 50,000 annual flights including military, air taxis and general aviation.
Construction is slated to be completed by Oct. 15. Hastie said the fixes will allow the airport to boost traffic, especially at night. The broken lights essentially ended nighttime traffic, he said.
Besides these three regional airports, $2.6 million will pay for crucial safety improvements, including weather reporting and snow equipment, lighting, signs and fog prevention:
- $1 million to the Mahlon Sweet Field Airport in Eugene for snow removal equipment.
- $600,000 to the Grant County Regional/Ogilvie Field Airport in John Day for runway reconstruction, lighting and signs.
- $332,260 to the Aurora State Airport for runway rehabilitation and fog prevention.
- $198,137 to the Crater Lake/Klamath regional Airport for runways and visual guidance systems.
- $150,000 to the Hobby Field Airport in Creswell for lights and path indicators.
- $150,000 to the Newport Municipal Airport for tree removal.
- $100,000 to the Ken Jernstedt Airfield in Hood River for weather reporting equipment.
- $100,000 to the Florence Municipal Airport for runways and taxiways.
The final $850,000 allocated to Salem Municipal Airport is to help the airport attract commercial carriers. In its application, the city of Salem said the money would be used for revenue guarantees for carriers, marketing and fee waivers. Resuming commercial service in Salem could require up to $12 million in terminal renovations and a doubling of staff, according to a story in Salem Reporter.
Two carriers wrote letters in support of the application, including Avelo Airlines, a small carrier based in Houston, Texas, and Aha!, a budget airline based in Reno, Nevada, the news site said. The companies are interested in two weekly flights each – Aha! to Reno and Avelo to Burbank, California or Las Vegas, Nevada.
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