Feb 18 2009

Airport gets much-needed grant

By Brent Maze

The Chilton County Airport will receive a $340,106 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to acquire land for a runway protection zone.

This grant will be used for purchasing land on the western end of Gragg-Wade Field that will move obstructions from the protection zone, according to Billy Singleton of the Chilton Airport Authority. By obtaining the land, the airport will draw closer to being able to use the whole 4,000-foot runway.

"We're very excited to get this grant," Singleton said. "We're very hopeful that the airport will soon have full use of the runway for the first time in 25 years."

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, notified county officials about the grant yesterday. He is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Currently, the airport is allowed to use only about 3,200 feet of the runway because there isn't an adequate runway protection zone on both sides of the airport. Obstructions have been removed on the east side of the airport, but the west side still needs work.

Singleton said completion of this project would be an asset to the county because the airport would be able to accommodate larger business aircrafts.

"Some business aircrafts are having to land at the Shelby County Airport and other surrounding airports because we cannot use our whole runway," he said. "It will reflect favorably on our county if these businesses can land their aircrafts at our airport."

Once the whole runway is useable, the airport could then be eligible for additional improvements, Singleton said.

"It is important that we continue to invest in our local airports," Shelby said in a statement yesterday. "The Gragg-Wade Field Airport needs to expand its runway protection zone. This funding will be used to acquire land for an airport protection zone that will meet current FAA design standards."