By Michael Hutchins, Herald Democrat
Officials with Texas Aviation Partners announced plans Thursday to restore and reopen a portion of one of North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field’s two parallel runways to aviation traffic. The runway, which has remained closed since the closure of Perrin Air Force Base in 1971, will be used to separate and segregate the traffic that comes into, and leaves, the airport, officials said.
The announcement was made during Thursday’s meeting of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority as a part of the airport manager’s report. Currently, the airport is equipped with three runways — the two parallel runways and a third cross runway.
“The main goal of that (opening the runway) would be to segregate your light (aircraft) ... away from your jet traffic,” NTRA Airport Manager Sarah Hinton said during Thursday’s meeting.
Hinton said the airport currently has about an 8,000 foot stretch of unused runway space that dates back to the airport’s time as a military base. Of that space, Hinton proposed repairing 3,000 feet so that it can be used by smaller aircraft and training aircraft. This would leave the larger airstrip for more powerful jet aircraft, she said.
Hinton said the repairs needed to this section of runway are primarily crack- and chip-seal work and new painting. Other maintenance, including herbicide and brush removal, are already included in the budget, she said.
Stephen Alexander, a partner with Texas Aviation Partners, said the portion of runway was chosen due to its condition and the relative ease of bringing it up to usable condition. During her presentation, Hinton said the chosen portion of runway would cost about $70,000 to seal and repaint. With a 20 percent contingency fee, Hinton said she did not expect the project to go over $100,000.
When the topic of rebuilding the existing runway was brought up later in the meeting, Grayson County Judge Bill Magers estimated the cost at about $7 million.
The need for additional runway space stems from training flight operations conducted by US Aviation. Alexander said the flight school conducts daily operations using prop-driven aircraft at the airport with regular takeoff and touchdowns on the runway. This traffic could make it difficult at times for larger, jet-powered aircraft to land, he said.
By separating the traffic, Alexander said the airport could alleviate any safety issues related to the two types of aircraft operating in the same space. As an analogy, Alexander compared the proposed layout as a four-lane highway, where as the airport now is close to a two-lane roadway.
With the separation of these uses, Magers said he hopes to attract more jet traffic to NTRA and with it other forms of development and industry. Additionally, by reducing the landing times, Magers said the airport can reduce the cost to use the airport by jet pilots, further incentivizing NTRA as a viable destination.
During public comments on the topic, George Shuler asked what stakeholders, including US Aviation thought about the proposed location of the open runway space. Shuler said he was concerned that the distance between the flight school and the runway space would create an unneeded burden on US Aviation. Shuler asked if it would be possible to instead renovate space to the south that would be closer to the flight school.
Alexander said US Aviation has expressed support for the project, and noted that the distance between where the flight school regularly takes off and the new runway space is not significant.
Magers said Grayson County will be financing the improvements using capital improvement funds allocated in the 2016-2017 budget. During the discussion, Magers thanked Lawrence for his foresight during the budgeting process and making this improvement possible.
While the funding is available now, Magers said he was uncertain whether the improvements would take place during the current or next fiscal year due to timing. Hinton said NTRA will need to wait for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before it can repair and open the air strip. She estimated it could take about 60 days for the proper permits to be approved.