Rhonda Chambers, Fort Dodge Regional Airport director of aviation, couldn't have been happier.
Friday morning, Great Lakes Flight 7287 to Minneapolis, piloted by Capt. Jonathan Whitehead, became the first flight to take off from the airport's rehabilitated runway after being closed since April 16 in a $4.8 million project,
"It's been four months of hard work for our complete runway rehabilitation, so it's very exciting that we're going to be able to open it this morning," Chambers said.
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Great Lakes Flight 7287, piloted by Capt. Jonathan Whitehead, became the first flight to take off from Fort Dodge Regional Airport’s newly rehabilitated runway Friday.
Runway 1213, which runs northwest-southeast, was the airport's original paved runway, built when the airport opened in 1952. The renovations it required were extensive, Chambers said.
"We did a lot of things. The pavement that was on top of it was taken down to that concrete from 1952," she said. "A new drainage got put in. A new lighting system got put in along the edges of the runway. And then they put 6 inches of asphalt back on top of the runway."
Along with that, the electrical system was completely replaced, as well as the regulators, which were also from 1952. A new building was constructed for the lighting system, with a new backup generator for the system. The runway itself also has new long-lasting epoxy paintmarks, with Federal Aviation Administration-required glass beads, enhanced side drainage and grooving.
Coordinating the construction effort was an enormous undertaking, Chambers said, requiring the airport to close completely for two weeks in July. It was necessary, though.
"In 2010, we had two concrete blow-ups that closed it for emergency repairs," she said.
Constructing an airport runway is different from anything else, Chambers said.
"The specs that we build a runway to are not the same specs that you build a road to," she said. "You have to be totally different as far as density of the asphalt, the smoothness of it. It's totally different. It has to be perfect."
Derick Anderson, McClure Engineering regional manager, was pleased with the end result.
"The intersection went just extremely well. I can't be more pleased with that," he said. "Now that it's all buttoning up and tying together, it really feels good to have the whole project done. The project as a whole, we're very happy with the outcome."
The design of the renovated intersecting runway was completed last year, Anderson said.
"It was a two-year process," he said. "It's fun to go through all that design phase and now see the benefit provided to the airport."
Chambers said having the runway completed and open again was "surreal."
"We've been working so hard for so long, and just to all of a sudden be ready to open, it's almost like, 'Really, we're done?'" she said. "Now, all of a sudden, we're opening it. It's going to be exciting."