Thursday, June 15, 2006
Little-known airport will take wing again
Work at Turlock field nearly finished
BY MICHAEL R. SHEA
The Modesto (CA) Bee
TURLOCK – Not everyone knows about it, but Turlock has an airport. But city officials are hoping it gets more use after a $97,000 rehabilitation project. The improvements are expected to be completed by September and the airport community is hoping for a renaissance at the small aviation outpost just off East Avenue southeast of town. It took the Turlock Regional Airport Association, made up of pilots and friends of the airport, more than five years to raise the rehab money through federal grants. Work started in September, was stopped by heavy rain, and picked back up in March.
Moisture has been a problem at the small airport, but a new storm water system should correct that. New asphalt is going down on the runway and taxiway, a water tank and fire suppression system have been installed and electrical systems are being overhauled.
“In everyone’s view, this airport has been dead a long time,” said Martin Gomez, who owns Colimair Aviation Services, the airport’s mechanic shop. “We’re trying to put it back on the map.”
Gomez said he’s seen an increase in people through the airport in the last few months and expects things to go “full blast” when the rehab is complete.
Gomez started the shop eight months ago and has hired three mechanics since. He has 17 planes in line for work and doesn’t expect the numbers to decrease.
The Turlock Airport is in Merced County. It was used for military training during World War II, and it went to the city from the federal government after the fall of Germany and Japan. Though the city owns the land, the airport is self-sufficient.
The airport association petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for the funding and manages the property. “The biggest problem out here is we have a few feet of clay and hardpan,” said Selena Osborn, the city’s on-site public works construction inspector. “So when it rains, rather than dissipating, it just sits.”
After a storm, pilots on the ground would have to crisscross deep puddles for days.
Though construction’s been active for only five months, the group spent more than five years on the planning process, Todd Smith, project manager, said. “It’s been a long haul.”
Editor’s Note: CALPILOTS assisted the Turlock Regional Airport Association in the transfer of operational responsibilities from the city. They are a great success story, and have done an excellent job in the maintenance of the airport property. .