Arcata/Eureka Airport

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Poised for takeoff: Plans to expand airport, boost security moving ahead
By James Faulk
The Eureka (CA) Times-Standard

McKINLEYVILLE — Expanded service, a runway extension and more protection against possible attacks are all proposed as part of the future at the county’s main airport. Airports Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey outlined the future of Humboldt County’s Arcata/Eureka Airport on Monday in a talk to the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce.

Expansions are planned that will help address some safety concerns and could potentially open the door to expanded service.

The county is in the midst of completing its airport master plan — a 20-year document that includes these segments, among others: a runway extension, the construction of a general aviation ramp and a terminal expansion.

In the next four or five years, $15 million of work will be occurring at the airport, Hulsey said.

The terminal expansion project will help the airport add 10,000 square feet to the building, making up for space that was lost to the Transportation Security Administration and its equipment following the terrorist attacks of 2001, and then some.

Another security-related change is the building of a general aviation ramp that will separate general aviation from commercial traffic to prevent possible attack. That project is going out to bid now, she said.

Then there’s a longer runway.

The one thing an extension won’t do is allow more massive planes to land at the Arcata/Eureka Airport — most of those can already land here, Hulsey said.

What it will do is reduce weight penalties for incoming flights. When an airplane wants to land here but the runway is wet and the weather is bad, it may have to unload weight for safety reasons because of the current runway length.

With the planned extension, those instances would be reduced.

“Our next step is to look out if we can go east, like to Salt Lake or Denver, so we want to make sure that we don’t miss that opportunity,” Hulsey said. “The airlines look at the bottom line so it has to make financial sense to them.”

By reducing the likelihood of weight penalties, service expansions may make better financial sense, she said.

This approach to an extension is different from a previous plan that would have required a sizable acquisition of property. It was a plan that ruffled more than a few feathers, so this extension instead includes a buffer of material at either end of the runway that’s meant to stop a runaway plane.

“The latest plan is really nice because they don’t have to buy all that property,” said chamber President Ben Shepherd. “That was extremely controversial.”

Hulsey also described — in what she called a broad-brush approach — some of the impact the airport system has on the local economy: First by its budget and capital spending of about $3.9 million a year, and then through the money spent by visitors. All told, Hulsey gave a rough estimate of $12 million from direct and indirect impacts from the four airports that bring in visitors — Arcata/Eureka, Murray Field, Rohnerville and Garberville airports.

In the banquet room at the McKinleyville Village Pantry, there was a sense of ownership in the room — the so-called Arcata/Eureka Airport is at home in McKinleyville.

“McKinleyville is the aviation gateway to the county,” said Shepherd. “Up here everyone calls it the McKinleyville Airport.”

Hulsey was a few minutes late to the gathering due a misunderstanding, but a lead-off quip got the crowd laughing.

“First I want to apologize,” Hulsey said about being late. “My flight was delayed.”

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