Airport clearing approaches to runway

Charles Warner Editor

December 28, 2013

UNION — The clearing of the approaches to its runway will soon be completed bringing the Union County Airport that much closer to being able to accommodate corporate jets.

The Union County Airport Commission met earlier this week to receive an update on the progress of the clearing of trees from 100 acres at the Union end of the airport runway. The area being cleared includes 75 acres of forest land owned by the county and 25 acres the airport has either acquired outright or has acquired the right to clear cut from its owners.

Airport Director Ronnie Wade reviewed the acquisition process and the ongoing clearing process. He said the clearing of the trees is on schedule and that a second phase will get under way in 2014.

“We’ve bought the rights to clear some trees, we purchased three properties including Linda Wade’s house, Mrs. Lloyd’s house, and 7.4 acres from the Eison estate,” Wade said Friday. “Then we bought the rights to clear trees from six other property owners.

“At this point in time we have Callahan, which was the winning bidder at $179,312, removing trees from the 100 acres for the clear zone,” he said. “We will also be clearing some trees from around existing homes which is part of the project. We’ll start that part after the first of the year. All this will give us our approaches to the runway.”

Wade added that 90 percent of the cost of clearing the trees will be paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration. The balance of the cost will be divided evenly between the State of South Carolina and the county.

The acquisition of the properties and/or the clearing rights is part of the county’s efforts to extend the airport runway from its current length of 3,500 feet to 5,000 feet. The extension is designed to enable the airport to accommodate corporate jets which currently must land in Spartanburg County even if Union County is the destination of their passengers.

In addition to helping set the stage for the lengthening of the runway, the clearing of the trees will enable aircraft to approach and land at the airport in inclement weather when visibility is limited. Once the trees have been cleared, aircraft equipped with GPS will be able to make what is known as a “non-precision landing” in inclement weather from both ends of the runway without guidance from the ground.

Wade has said that with more and more aircraft being equipped with GPS the ability make non-precision landings on the runway could increase business at the airport.

Currently, there are 21 airplanes operating out of the airport including 20 housed in its hangars and one tied down on the tarmac. Wade has said that there is a long list of aircraft owners interested in renting space at the airport for their planes.

In addition to updating the commission on the status of the tree clearing, Wade said that the houses the airport purchased for clear zoning are being advertised for sale and removal. He said persons interested in acquiring the houses may remove them either by demolishing them or relocating them.

Once the clearing of the trees is completed, Wade said the next phase will be the development of the airport layout plan which will deal with such issues as the engineering aspects of extending the runway and the commission’s vision for the airport’s development over the next 20 years.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.