OLD TOWN, Maine — Town leaders learned Monday that the city’s Dewitt Field needs a few safety improvements to grow, and now is the time to make decisions about the small airport’s future.
“A lot of it, right now, is up to the city council to decide,” said Ervin Deck, senior aviation planner for Stantec Consulting Services Inc. of Scarborough, who helped develop and present a master plan to the council on Monday.
The 20-year-plan calls for improvements to the taxiways, required under new Federal Aviation Administration rules, moving the seaplane base and possibly shortening or closing the shortest of two runways.
The shorter secondary runway, Runway 4-22, is used by small planes whenever there is a strong crosswind, and it has a seaplane base in the river located at one end, Deck said.
“There is a runway protection zone that sits over the river — over a seaplane base,” he said. “The military calls these ‘crash zones.’ [City leaders] want to move that particularly if they want to get federal funding to build that seaplane base up.”
The city has expressed an interest in expanding the seaplane base, but the FAA will not approve such an expansion as long as the runway protection zone is an issue, he said. To address the problem, Deck is suggesting Runway 4-22 be shortened to allow the protection zone to fit on the land between the runway and river or that it be closed and used for other airport amenities.
Whether to keep both runways operational, “I think is the big decision the city is going to have to make in the near future,” Deck said.
The MaineDOT Work Plan released in January details an ambitious schedule of 1,600-plus projects to be completed by the Maine Department of Transportation during the next three years, and rebuilding and repaving Runway 4-22 at Dewitt Field, for an estimated $4.12 million, is on the list. This project includes removing obstructions.
The city also learned in July 2013 that the Federal Aviation Administration awarded Old Town Municipal Airport a $365,862 grant to reconstruct the existing taxi-lane pavement at Dewitt Field.
“Most of these are approached at a 30 degree or 45 degree angle. It creates a visibility problem for some pilots,” Deck said. “The FAA wants a 90 degree angle. That way, you can see in both directions.”
The city would be responsible for about 5 percent of the cost of any FAA projects, Deck said.
The last airport master plan was created in 2002.