Whitesburg KY

County is moving closer to getting airport

A new airport for Letcher County has moved from possible to probable thanks to the hard work of the Letcher County Airport Board.

Airport Board Secretary Scott Burris, an Isom pharmacist, said the 11-member board has retained ENTRAN, a Lexington engineering firm specializing in transportation infrastructure, as its representative in negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other government agencies. ENTRAN presented a computer-generated slide show at a recent board meeting which detailed actions already taken and outlined future steps to select a site and obtain funding for the airport.

Burris said ENTRAN conducted a feasibility study on several sites which were proposed to the board and has submitted the necessary paperwork to the FAA to have the proposed airport included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). NPIAS inclusion makes the airport eligible for FAA funding. The current FAA funding level for general aviation airports is 95 percent. The remaining five percent is split between the state and the sponsoring agency, which is the Airport Board. The Kentucky Department of Aviation funded the entire site selection study.

Burris said although ENTRAN has narrowed the number of sites to three, the FAA will have the final say in determining where the airport will be located. The three final sites are located at Stampers Branch, along Route 7 near Isom, at Carbon Glow, and at the old airport site in Colson. The Stampers Branch site has more room for expansion. Sites are screened by terrain, airspace, access, environmental concerns, cost, and residential impact.

Burris said federal criteria for locating airports and the proximity of Pine Mountain, Kentucky’s second highest point, made the site selection process more difficult. The airport cannot be within 30 minutes’ driving time of the nearest NPIAS airport, and Pine Mountain factors in heavily because of height issues for take off and landing. Wind direction and velocity are also factors.

The drawings furnished by ENTRAN include a terminal building, hangars, and a 4,000- foot runway along with a Runway Protection Zone (RPZ), an area located off the runway to protect individuals and property on the ground. Places of public assembly are restricted from within the boundary of the RPZ.

Among the services which may be offered at the airport are aircraft charters, flight instruction, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, air cargo, aviation fuel services, aircraft tie-downs, and hangars.

General aviation airports are airports where “general aviation is the component of civil aviation that is not scheduled airline service.” Such airports accommodate aircraft used for business, corporate, recreational, and personal flying.

Studies indicate that general aviation airports generate economic activity. It is hoped an airport will help Letcher County attract new business and industry.

The Letcher County Airport Board was established jointly by the cities of Jenkins, Whitesburg, and Fleming-Neon and the Letcher County Fiscal Court. The Airport Board is the official sponsor and will oversee operations once construction is complete.

The Letcher County Airport Board consists of: Chairman Joe DePriest, Vice Chair Randall Caudill, Secretary-Treasurer Burris, Rick Caudill, R.F. Kiser, Mike Gover, Harold Jones, John Combs Jr., Joe Shelton, Jerry Nantz Jr., and Don Childers. If everything goes according to plan, the airport will open in 2011.

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