Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 4, 2013

Design standards

Airport upgrades continue


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Slowly but surely necessary and long-overdue improvements continue to be made at the Mercer County Airport. The latest facility upgrade is being made possible thanks to a $58,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The federal funds were announced last week by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. The federal grant award will be used to help fund the design of a taxiway to help the airport meet design standards.

The taxiway upgrade will also help to make the airport more competitive in business, according to local airport authority board member Charlie Cole.

“The airport authority is thrilled with these funds,” Cole said last week. “They will be used to benefit the airport and make it more usable. That in turn will help more economic development happen in the area. Most people in business fly where they are going and the airport is the first thing companies that want to locate here will see. If the airport is not usable they may not want to move to the area, so these facilities are extremely important.”

The taxiway project is the latest in a series of upgrades and renovations planned for the Mercer County facility. Bids were advertised just last month for long-needed improvements to the airport’s lobby and restroom area. And new Airport Manager Clint Ransom is now working to schedule a long-requested car show and air show for the facility.

Such attractions are needed to raise public awareness and support for the airport. One needs to look no further than neighboring Tazewell County to see what a successful air show can do for an airport. The air show at the Tazewell County Airport is an event that families across the region look forward to each summer.

 It was also announced earlier this summer that Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, and his brother, Bluefield Mayor Tom Cole, are in the process of purchasing a small aircraft that could be used for providing pilot training at the airport. Such a pilot training program would be another welcomed addition to the airport. Ransom also is working to expand an existing relationship with the Mercer County Civil Air Patrol.

All of the above efforts are welcomed. These necessary steps will help make the Mercer County Airport a stronger general aviation facility. And if the region is to grow and attract new commercial and manufacturing jobs, a strong airport will be necessary. The planned airport taxiway upgrade is another step in the right direction.