One project is complete at Columbia Regional Airport, and leaders are looking at starting construction on another one. The Airport Advisory Board examined the progress of the latest projects and looked into future ones at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
Airport leaders are expected to talk with the Federal Aviation Administration sometime next week about the projects on their to-do list. They say the tests and surveys have been completed, and they are good to proceed. They're now waiting on the FAA to see what the final costs would be.
Airport leaders say much progress has been made in the past year, but there's still more to do. They say the $5.5 million taxiway is complete, and $1.5 million worth of fencing is almost done. Now, they're focused on redoing an intersection in the runway.
“We have pavement that's almost 50 years old, and it's time to rehab or replace some of the pavement at our airfield,” Columbia Regional Airport manager Don Elliott said.
Elliott tells ABC 17 News in most cases, the FAA will fund 90 percent of the bill, and the city gets the other 10 percent. He's not sure how much replacing the intersection will cost.
Airport leaders say these projects are necessary because Columbia Regional needs to be able to handle larger airplanes. Recently, planes belonging to Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines had to make unplanned landings.
“It's important for us to have an airport to accommodate those folks in emergency situations. Obviously, we want to take care of our own customers, but we also want to be in a position to be able to provide service to other folks,” Advisory Board chairman Greg Cecil said.
Board members said improving runways also allows them to push the city to find new airlines.
The discussion wasn't all about infrastructure. They believe technology needs to be improved.
Currently, passengers can't do certain things they are getting used to at other airports, like having their boarding pass scanned on their cellphones. Board members say the airport cannot afford to lose any customers right now.
“Only 50 percent of our customers are local, the other 50 percent are coming in from somewhere else, so folks are used to doing things at other airports. We need to try everything we can to accommodate them,” Cecil said.
Airport leaders say they're unsure what they have to do to increase technology. They say American Airlines is doing everything it can, but they might have to persuade the Transportation Security Administration to get up to date.