MILLINOCKET, Maine — Lincoln Regional Airport isn’t the only area travel outlet looking for an upgrade, town officials said Friday.
Work will begin as early as next week on a $250,000 tree-removal operation that will clear safety zones in and around the Millinocket Regional Airport in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Airport Supervisor Jeff Campbell said.
Gary M. Pomeroy Logging Inc., a subsidiary of Pomeroy Construction and Land Services of Hermon, will handle the work, Campbell said. About 80 acres of trees are due to be taken down.
“It’s all stuff that has been cut before, new growth that was trimmed back 12 years ago,” Campbell said Friday. “We have to do it in order to get in line for federal grants.”
Like Lincoln’s town officials, Millinocket’s officials view their airport as an underused economic asset ripe for growth — with a little help from federal authorities. Both towns have multiyear plans for developing their airports as economic cornerstones to their regional economies.
With their nearest major competitors, airports in Bangor and Presque Isle, at least an hour away on Interstate 95, both airports can facilitate economic growth, but Millinocket’s has an advantage. Its airport has a main runway that is 4,713 feet long, lighted and, as with its secondary runway, can handle most light twin-jet and turbo-prop aircraft.
Lincoln’s runway is about 2,800 feet long and, unlike Millinocket’s, lacks 24-hour jet and aviation-gas credit card service. Millinocket’s airport also has an office area where pilots can check in and buy light refreshments.
Lincoln officials hope to expand the Lincoln runway by about 300 feet, or maybe more, but that is not part of the town’s five-year airport plan, Lincoln Economic Development Director Ruth Birtz said.
If Millinocket’s runway is expanded to 5,500 feet, most light jets and turbo-props could land on the main runway in bad weather. It can be expanded to 6,500 feet, which would accommodate all but large four-engine commercial jets, town officials have said.
Since 2005 — and not counting the latest investment — the Town Council has sunk about $165,000 in town and federal money into the airport to buy two hangars and other improvements crucial to the airport’s growth. Grant reimbursement covered all but about $4,500 of the work.
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said the town’s hope is to continue to draw people to the airport.
“We are continuing to operate the airport under auspices of the town. It’s going very well,” he said Friday. “We had a fly-in last weekend that had about 45 planes and an antique auto show that had about 45 cars.
“The airport is doing well from the point of view of getting its name out there to the public and having reliable aviation gas supplies,” Conlogue said.
Next year, Campbell said the airport likely would get its runway end safety zones lengthened from 100 to 300 feet, with more off-airport sight obstructions removed.
Town officials are also within two years of applying for federal aid to install a new instrument approach system for pilots, Campbell said.