Originally created 12/15/00

Airport launches Phase II



Phase I of the first master plan for Augusta Regional Airport has been completed, and Phase II is under way.

The airport's master plan, a road map of sorts for future economic development and growth at and around Augusta's only commercial airport, is expected to be completed by July.

The first phase is filled with surveys, input from public meetings and data gathered from those who use Augusta Regional Airport the most.

One Phase I survey asked area residents whether they thought Augusta Regional Airport is important to the future of Augusta. Ninety-eight percent of the 717 people queried said "yes."

Similarly, 96 percent said they would encourage Augusta Regional Airport officials to expand and develop the airport.

Most telling, consultants said, is the fact that 87 percent of the people surveyed said they would choose to fly out of Augusta if the airfares were the same as other nearby airports.

The complete composite data is expected to be officially released next week.

The Augusta Aviation Commission paid $93,000 for the first phase of the master plan. At its regular monthly meeting Thursday at the airport, the commission unanimously approved spending up to $423,000 on Phase II, which, airport officials say, is the real meat of the project.

Phase II will include an inventory of existing conditions, forecasts for future air service demand at the airport and a competitive facilities analysis, including a study of the runways, taxiways, hangars, aprons and buildings.

As part of Phase II, airport consultants Black and Veatch will prepare an airport layout plan that will show the best future use of airport grounds and facilities, a terminal area plan, proposals for land use compatibility, and a phasing plan for construction projects.

The final section of Phase II will be a financial analysis, including nonairline operating revenue, capital improvement program expenditures, debt funding capacity and a financial model.

"This has never been done before, and it's badly needed," Augusta Aviation Commissioner Marcie Wilhelmi said.

Interim Airport Director Tim Weegar and Clarence Fennell, the airport's engineer, said the master plan must be completed before work on a new terminal can begin. The terminal project has been on hold since July.

In other airport news, the Augusta Aviation Commission unanimously agreed to continue its search for a permanent replacement for Al McDill. The former airport director was fired last March. Mr. Weegar has been filling in since.

The commission voted to talk with several corporate head hunting firms (companies that recruit top-level management administrators) to try and find the most qualified candidate for the job.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.