Lincoln airport to improve its flight paths

Posted July 30, 2010, at 11:19 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:29 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Local companies will perform an environmental study and remove obstructions from the flight paths at Lincoln Regional Airport with $130,000 in funding the Federal Aviation Administration awarded to the town, officials said Friday.

The money is part of a series of FAA allocations handed out annually to municipal airports statewide. It will help Lincoln continue to meet a proposed five-year, $700,000 plan to build upon the success of current airport-related businesses, such as PK Floats, while improving airport customer services.

“Each year in our plan we have items slated for us to work on,” Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said. “Last year we did an obstruction study, identifying any obstructions within the airport’s approach pattern for planes. Now we have to remove them.”

The study is examining the environmental impact of removing the obstructions — trees and other objects — from 65 acres in town, Chester and Penobscot Indian Nation islands in the Penobscot River. Removing the obstacles, which do not impair pilots’ ability to use the airport, would improve sight lines, Goodwin said.

David Lloyd, the town’s airport manager and public works department director, said that if removing the obstructions is not feasible, they could be lighted at night to improve aircraft safety.

“It is going to take us about a year to do this whole thing,” Lloyd said Friday of the study and obstruction removal. “It involves about 25 landowners that we are probably going to have to be dealing with.”

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 2008 to help it manufacture its newer models of pontoons, including 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 Michael Rogerson of Hoyle, Tanner and Associates, has worked with Lloyd to improve the airport for about six years, Lloyd said.

The five-year 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 public utilities access to — the airport. This was accomplished when the town did the repairs and secured an easement through land near Flyaway Drive by closing negotiations with the Edwards brothers of Lincoln in 2009.

The goal: eventually to create a mile-long underground utility hookup from River Road to Route 6. The lack of easy sewer, water and three-phase electrical access has been the biggest impediment to developing the town-owned Industrial Park West proposed in 2002, the adjoining airport and private lands on the road’s north side near Route 6, which is known locally as West Broadway and is the Lincoln Lakes region’s largest retail zone.

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

The town did purchase Flyaway Drive for about $35,000 but has delayed the resealing and road construction, Lloyd said.

“The FAA wants us to take care of all of these safety concerns before we can go on to development of the airport,” Lloyd said.

• 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 is affected by silt infiltration that can force airplanes to run aground or get bogged down, town officials have 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. A fuel farm also will be constructed, though it might happen sooner than 2014.

“That will be my No. 1 goal,” Lloyd said of the fuel farm. “The pilots in the area have indicated that this is a top priority for them. That is a lost revenue for the town. I probably receive six calls a month from people asking, ‘Do you guys have fuel?’”

The Millinocket and Old Town airports are the closest refueling points, Lloyd said.

Goodwin called the plan a “living document,” a guideline continually updated to reflect changing needs and realities.

Hoyle, Tanner and Associates has estimated the terminal would cost as much as $500,000. Town officials figure it would cost substantially less, especially if Public Works does what it can to help and other organizations provide in-kind donations.

“We are talking a much, much smaller area than that,” Lloyd said of the original plan calling for a $500,000 terminal. “We just want something for pilots to get out from the weather and use the phone. We could expand it as needs require.”

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