By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Creating more hangar space for airplanes is one of the ways the Mercer County Airport could generate new aviation activity and attract the federal grants that go with it, an airport official said Monday.
The Mercer County Airport Authority started advertising Monday in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph for contractors interested in submitting bids for a new taxiway. The project involves removing portions of the existing taxiway in order to construct new taxiway intersections.
A federal grant is funding the renovation, Airport Manager Clint Ransom said Monday. The runway was extended in 2009.
“This would extend the taxiway to the end of the runway,” Ransom stated. “It’s more of a safety plan. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is the one that wants us to do this project. It wasn’t really anything necessary to help our business any.”
One change that would help business is creating more hangar space for airplanes, he said.
“We would like to build eight new hangar units,” Ransom said. “That’s something that would have to be funded by private grants, the county or the airport authority. There’s no federal grant money available for this.”
All the airport’s current hangar space is now filled, Ransom stated. In the past, the airport rented space to owners of recreational vehicles, but aircraft have a priority on any available space.
“I’m turning non-aeronautical things away. In the past, we had a lot of RVs, but in the past month, we got four new airplanes in,” he said.
Renting space for RV storage helps to pay the airport’s expenses, but providing hangar space for aircraft generates more revenue. Besides renting space, the airplanes’ owners buy fuel and operate them from the airport. The FAA considers the number of take offs and landings when determining whether to provide grant funding.
“That’s one of the things they’re interested in, how busy is this airport,” Ransom said. “Currently, we have 30 planes. I’m supposed to have one or two more in March.”
The airport authority recently completed an approximately $110,000 terminal renovation that was funded by the Hugh I. Shott Foundation, Ransom added. Changes to the facility included new restrooms and new downstairs office space.