UNION — The day jets will be able to land and take off at the Union County Airport is getting closer.
At its current length of 3,500 feet, twin-engine planes are the largest aircraft the airport’s runway can handle. For the past several years the county has been working toward lengthening the runway to 5,000 feet so it can handle small corporate jets.
In 2011, Union County Council amended the 2011-2012 budget to include $13,808.20 as a local match for a $276,164 grant awarded the airport by the Federal Aviation Administration. The grant and match were used to pay for the clear-cutting of 110 acres at the end of the runway. The project, which will cost $289,972.20, is designed to improve safety for planes attempting to land and enable the airport to make further improvements.
Those improvements will include the installation of a GPS approach that can help guide a pilot as he attempts to land and an AWAS self-reporting weather station that allows a pilot check the weather at the airport when he does his flight report.
Union County Airport Director Ronnie Wade said that the land and clearance acquisition phase of the project is nearly complete. Wade said the airport, either directly or through the county, has acquired property or clearances on properties on the end of the runway nearest Union. He said he is still in the process of acquiring some of the required clearances to move on to the clear-cutting phase of the project.
Wade said Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair and County Engineer Jerry Brannon recently handled the acquisition of some property as part of clearing the approach to the Union end of the runway.
“Jerry Brannon and Mr. Sinclair purchased a little over five acres from Linda Wade in the approach to that end of the runway,” Wade said. “I was not involved because Linda is my aunt and had I been involved in that it would amounted to collusion which would be illegal. The property has been acquired by the county and will be owned by the airport which is a county entity. We will eventually reimburse the county for the $287,300 they paid for the property. That money has already been approved by the FAA.”
In addition to the property acquired by Sinclair and Brannon, Wade said the airport has also acquired an 0.9 acre site from D.T. Lloyd and clearances on an 0.9 acre site owned by Jim Palmer, a 1.1 acre site owned by Tamara Jones, 0.8 acre and 0.3 acre sites owned by Samuel E. Fullbright, a o.5 acre site owned by Thomas Harrison, and a 1.9 acre site owned by the family of Carol Willis. He said the airport is also in process of acquiring a 7.4 acre site that is part of Carol Willis’ estate and is in the middle of the approach to the runway.
“What acquiring the clearances mean is that we will be able to cut down the trees on those properties,” Wade said. “This clears the approach to the runway, but leaves the houses there untouched because they are not an obstruction. Once we’ve cleared the trees this will allow us to have GPS approach on either end of the runway.”
Wade said the acquisition of the properties and clearances has so far cost the county approximately $500,000 with most of the cost covered by the FAA.
The airport has previously acquired 400 acres of land at the other end of the runway and Wade said it will be on that end that the runway will be lengthened to the desired length of 5,000 feet.
Wade said lengthening the runway to 5,000 feet can have a positive impact on economic development in Union County.
“A lot of these industries and businesses have corporate jets and right now the closest they can land to Union County is Spartanburg,” Wade said. “When you have to have them land in another county and then come here by car you’ve already lost an advantage. If they can land here, that’s an asset in trying to get them to do business here and that’s why having a runway that can accommodate corporate jets is so important.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.