Aug 28 2008

Airport to get new fire truck

Times Daily

By Russ Corey

A Federal Aviation Administration grant will help pay for a new fire and rescue vehicle for the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport.

Airport Director Matthew Hea said he was recently notified by the FAA that the airport would indeed receive the appropriation, which is being made available through an FAA Airport Improvement Grant.

"The FAA already sent me the paperwork," Hea said. "We're very happy about it."

The $342,700 appropriation will cover 95 percent of the cost of the new truck, which will be specifically manufactured for airport use.

The airport and the state Aeronautics Bureau will split the remaining 5 percent of the cost. Hea said the airport's portion will come to roughly $8,750.

The new truck will replace a 1975 model fire truck, Hea said.

It will be equipped with a nozzle mounted on the truck's cab, which will allow firefighters to battle a blaze from the safety of the cab. It will also have the capability to utilize chemical foam and "Purple K," a dry chemical fire suppression agent.

The bid for the truck was approved in June, and Hea said it will take 12-14 months for the truck to be built.

"Increases in travel to and through northwest Alabama require the airport authority to have the most up to date equipment available to ensure the safety of passengers, pilots and airport employees," U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a press release. Shelby is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The fire station at the airport is staffed by members of the Muscle Shoals Fire Department.

Hea said the airport is still negotiating a contract with a local contractor who will carry out another grant project at the airport: the rehabilitation of the 4,000-foot alternative or "crosswind" runway.

The airport received a $1.9 million FAA Airport Improvement Grant to remove the existing asphalt pad outside Northwest Airlink's terminal and replace it with a concrete pad, remove and rebuild the runway's shoulders and install a new runway lighting system.

"We're about to wrap that up, and we hope to get construction started in September," Hea said. He said the project is expected to take 60-90 days to complete.

The airport is waiting to see if it will be receiving a grant through the Aeronautics Bureau that will cover 50 percent of the cost of a new hangar. Hea said customers have already leased space in the new facility.

A second pending grant is designed to increase boardings at the airport.

If the airport can board 10,000 passengers or more a year, it would be eligible to receive $1 million in FAA grant money.