WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The Walnut Ridge Regional Airport is 69 years old and is showing signs of aging. But money is an issue, it's a matter of priorities. X amount of dollars to fix x amount of problems.
Dan Coker is the chairman of the airport commission. Coker says it costs around 700 Thousand a year just to run the airport. Other major expenses have to be planned out.
Coker, "We keep a 5 year capital outlay plan, it's in our master plan. We're in the process of revising that some now because we've had an issue with some runway lights and also with the ramp out here. We need to do some major repair on it."
For pilots, runway lighting is important for night landings and low weather visibility.
Coker, "The lights on 04/22 that's our six thousand foot runway, if we have them up on high intensity they periodically go off and then come back on." The lights are quite old and due for an update, probably to an LED lighting system.
Through the FAA, the airport has notified pilots and until the problem is fixed they are only using the lights on low intensity. The lights are activated by pilots using a series of clicks on their radio.
Another problem is the ramp. 69 years worth of use is breaking down the six inch thick blocks of concrete. There are literally thousands of these blocks that make up the ramp. The recent usage by heavy aircraft that are being dismantled may have also lead to the degradation.
Coker, "As money becomes available, we're going to go in and redo this ramp. It may take years to do that."
I asked Coker, "Where does the airport get it's revenue?"
Coker, "The FBO that's our fixed base operation, hangar rental and we own a lot of property out here that we lease out to the various industry." The FBO dispenses fuel for piston and jet engine aircraft.
The FAA also gives the airport a yearly improvement fund. Because of a 2-year property dispute over the golf course those funds stopped. But they did receive some this year and are trying to recoup the funds that stopped during the legal battle.
There have been some other issues concerning drainage which is being looked at. Coker says some tiles in between the runways have to be replaced and they used their improvement funds to cover that cost.
But Coker says the priority is the lighting. "We just don't want a complete failure of the lights on this runway."