MILLINOCKET, Maine — The town is continuing what its leaders call the slow-paced but vital work of increasing the economic viability of the town-run Millinocket Municipal Airport, with construction aimed at improving runway safety planned this summer.
Pike Industries of Lewiston will get $625,000 to remove a hill near the intersection of two airport runways and fill, pave and otherwise enhance safety at one end of one runway, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.
Pike’s work will follow a $250,000 tree-removal operation aimed at clearing safety zones in and around the airport last fall in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. West Branch Aviation, a flight training and refueling service that leases airport space, also plans to return jet-fuel service at the airport this month.
“There are a lot of good things happening here,” Town Councilor Jimmy Busque said Thursday of the airport. “This has been in the works for a number of years. … We have some good leadership there.”
Town leaders view their airport as an underused economic asset ripe for growth — with a little help from federal authorities — and since 2005 have been working their multiyear plan for developing the airport as a cornerstone to the Katahdin regional economy.
Located on Medway Road, the airport has two runways, a main terminal and pilots’ lounge, six municipally and privately owned hangars, 13 tie-downs, and 24-hour fuel service. It can handle most light twin-jet and turbo-prop aircraft. The main runway is 4,713 feet and has pilot-controlled lighting. The other is 4,007 feet and can be accessed by ski aircraft, according to the town Web site, millinocket.org.
With its nearest major competitors, airports in Bangor and Presque Isle, at least an hour away, the airport can facilitate economic growth, town officials say. If Millinocket’s runway is expanded to 5,500 feet, which the town hopes to do, 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.
The council voted 7-0 to award the contract to Pike, the qualified bidder whose bid was lowest. With corporate headquarters in Belmont, N.H., Pike has regional offices in three states and several sub-offices and asphalt plants in Maine, according to the company Web site, pikeindustries.com.