Belfast exploring options to upgrade municipal airport

By Ben Holbrook | Sep 06, 2012

Belfast — Slow and steady is the how Thomas Kittredge, economic development director and airport manager, described development at the Belfast Municipal Airport as future upgrades could attract more activity to the area.

he airport receives about $150,000 a year from the Federal Aviation Administration to use for capital improvement projects, Kittredge said. Those projects have ranged from creating more space to park planes to the possibility of extending the existing runway by another 1,000 feet, Kittredge said.

The runway at the airport is 4,000 feet long, which is sufficient for its current operations, but Maine Scenic Airways President Sandy Reynolds said an additional 1,000 feet would allow larger jets, such as those used by athenahealth, to land.

“It would put Belfast on par with Bar Harbor and Rockland,” Reynolds said in terms of the type of aircraft that could land. “You can have more jets come in and probably more people would use it.”

Before the runway can be extended, if it can be at all, Kittredge said a feasibility study must be conducted to present to the FAA to determine if the project warrants funding. The study will need to address nearby wetlands and steep drop offs that could be impacted by extending the runway.

Kittredge said the airport will use FAA funds to conduct a feasibility study, but there is no time-line for when it will be completed.

“We need to put together documentation,” he said.

Increasing the amount of air traffic going into and out of the airport could result in more noise for residents who live close to the airport; however, Kittredge and Reynolds said they don’t foresee noise being an issue because the airport would still cater to smaller aircraft.

“I don’t think noise will be an issue. We won’t have any 747’s that are landing,” Kittredge said.

For those concerned about noise, Reynolds noted the airport “doesn’t have a line of planes” waiting to take off during the day. He acknowledged there might be an up tick in the amount of traffic coming in, but not to the point where it should be a nuisance.

In addition to expanded parking space and a possible runway extension, Kittredge said the airport is looking at installing additional fuel services. The additional fuel services could include jet fuel and lead-free gas that some smaller planes use, he said.

The Department of Environmental Protection regularly inspects fuel tanks on the property and the city has a spill prevention and control plan in place in case there is an issue.

“The aviation fuel is the only hazard. I don’t consider it a problem as long as it’s properly maintained,” Kittredge said.

As the city continues to look at ways to improve the airport, Kittredge said small upgrades such as, the installation of wi-fi internet, makes the facility more user friendly for pilots who often need internet access to plan their flight routes.

“I think we have a really nice airport. Wi-fi is a pretty basic amenity that we haven’t had until now,” he said.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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