Farmington looks at airport upgrades to attract commercial airlines
Mayors Table video focuses on Four Corners Regional Airport
FARMINGTON — The Four Corners Regional Airport is planning two projects designed to allow it to attract larger aircraft.
Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts and City Manager Rob Mayes discussed the projects during a Mayor's Table video that was released Jan. 22.
In the video, Mayes said city officials have realized the airport needs to be able to have larger planes fly into the airport if they want to have viable commercial air service. He said changes in federal regulations have made it so only small planes can fly into the airport, and many airlines have stopped flying those small planes due to pilot shortages.
Mayes said there are two things the city needs to accomplish if it wants to attract the larger planes.
"Before we can attract an airline that flies larger planes, we have to be able to serve those planes," he said.
The city will need to increase the safety distance at the end of the primary runway. When reached by phone Wednesday, airport manager Mike Lewis said the increased distance would prevent planes from crashing if the pilots overshoot the runway. However, that is a challenge for the Four Corners Regional Airport because it is located on a mesa.
"We have cliffs on both ends," Lewis said.
The airport will need to install an Engineered Materials Arresting System, or EMAS. If a plane overshoots the runway, its landing gear will get stuck in the EMAS, and the EMAS will prevent it from crashing or going off the cliff.
Images of EMAS can be viewed on the Mayor's Table video, including a picture that shows a plane that has overshot a runway and ended up in the EMAS.
The airport will also move a taxiway 15 feet so that the airport can accommodate larger planes. Lewis said the center line of the runway is currently 285 feet from the center line of the taxiway. The requirement for larger planes is 300 feet.
The city already was planning on replacing the taxiway, according to Lewis.
"It had reached its useful life," he said.
In the video, Mayes said if those two things are accomplished, planes that seat between 50 and 90 passengers could fly in and out of Farmington. Mayes said the taxiway and the EMAS could cost between $15 and $20 million.
In contrast, Roberts said when the city has looked at building a new runway, the price tag has been about $70 million.
Mayes anticipates the majority of the funding for the two projects will come from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Lewis said there is still a possibility that the city could attract an airline that flies small planes like the ones Great Lakes flew in and out of Farmington. However, he said it is likely that Four Corners Regional Airport will not have a commercial airline flying in and out for a couple of years.
While commercial air service may be absent for a few years, Lewis said there has been increased general aviation and military activity at the airport.
Lewis said in 2017 there were more general aviation and military flights in and out of the airport than in the last five years.
He said that increase is likely because the Four Corners economy is recovering and the military budget is strong.
"There's a lot of airplanes moving," he said.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.