Flying High

Posted Oct. 17, 2008, at 6:03 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — The Town Council will review a proposed five-year, $700,000 plan for Lincoln’s municipal airport next month that would vastly improve the airport’s ability to serve the Lincoln Lakes region, officials said Thursday.

Town Economic Development Director Ruth Birtz said the council expects to have the plan for review next month and must approve it before it can be realized.

The plan’s goal: to build upon the success of current airport-related businesses, such as PK Floats, while improving airport customer services.

“It will increase the airport’s economic viability,” Birtz said Thursday. “We want the airport not only to serve the pilots and recreational needs of the area, but to have it serve as a point of business expansion.”

Located at the edge of the airport property, PK Floats employs about 20 workers manufacturing pontoons and other airplane accessories.

PK completed a 9,000-square-foot expansion in March to help it manufacture its newest pontoon, the PK 7000A, an amphibious float made partially of composite materials with built-in wheels designed for use on runways, fields or water. It is rated to handle airplanes that displace 7,000 pounds of water.

The town’s airport development adviser, senior airport planner Richard Ludders of Hoyle, Tanner and Associates, met Wednesday with Airport Manager David Lloyd, the town’s Public Works Department director, to discuss the airport, Lloyd said.

Keith Strange, president of Lincoln Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and a PK Floats manager, and Marcel Rancourt, a LAOPA member, also attended.

“We met informally to make sure that our plan will benefit the people who use the airport,” Lloyd said Thursday. “We are trying to wrap the airport in with our proposed industrial park to show where they are going to tie in together.”

Lincoln Industrial Park West, a proposed industrial park to be located near Lincoln Regional Airport, would feature light industrial firms.

One major hurdle for the town to overcome, Lloyd said: selling the Federal Aviation Administration on the concept of improving the seaplane base.

Almost all of the repairs or upgrades would be paid for with grant money from the FAA or from money created by tax breaks given to Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, Birtz said.

FAA Capacity Program Manager Ralph Nicosia-Rusin is due to review the plan with Lloyd, but no date has been set. The plan calls for:

• In 2009: The minor pavement repair and the pursuit of easements to allow town officials to remove obstructions in and around — and to create a public access road to — the airport. The airport’s access road presently goes over privately owned land, Birtz said.

• 2010: A resealing of the runway surface and the construction of a public access road to the airport.

• 2011-13: Spending about $240,000 to replace the town’s seaplane base in the Penobscot River with a more modern structure, which would include a parking lot, access road, concrete ramp in the river and docks.

The current base suffers from silt infiltration that can force airplanes to run aground or get bogged down, Birtz said.

• 2013: Construction of aircraft storage or hangars that pilots can rent or pay tie-down fees for.

• 2014: Construction of a small terminal featuring telephone and Internet service, refreshments and restrooms.

Ludders has estimated the terminal would cost as much as $500,000. Birtz figures it would cost substantially less, especially if Public Works does what it can to help and other organizations provide in-kind donations.

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