HELENA — The Helena Regional Airport is making plans for a major runway resurfacing project that will mean no commercial flights at the airport for eight days this June.
The airport will give its main runway an extensive rehabilitation, as part of a $15 million project. The eastern end of the runway will be fully reconstructed, and the entire runway will get new paving.
Because of the work, no commercial airlines will be able to fly into or out of the airport from June 6 though June 13.
The last major resurfacing occurred in 2000. At that time, planes were able to use one of the airport’s taxiways as a backup runway. Airport director Jeff Wadekamper said, since airlines are all using larger planes now, that’s no longer an option.
Wadekamper said airports generally repave their runways about every 20 years. It’s important to keep them in good condition so planes can get the traction they need in all weather conditions and so potholes and other damage don’t develop.
Wadekamper said it made sense to do this project now, while traveler numbers are down during the pandemic and before the busiest time of the summer. He apologized for any inconvenience to travelers and said they will have multiple crews working in order to get the project finished as quickly as possible.
“We’re juggling a lot of things to make sure we minimize the impacts and keep the airport operational as much as possible,” Wadekamper said. “These are one of those projects that’s probably one of the most complicated projects an airport can do quite honestly, because everything revolves around the runways.”
Airlines have already begun removing flights during the affected period from their websites.
Wadekamper said he’s confident that they can finish the work during the eight days they’ve allotted, and that they have built in extra time in case of weather or other issues.
90% of the funding for the runway project will come from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. The airport will have to pay the remaining 10% – $1.5 million – from other revenues.