Tryon Resort asks Rutherford County to expand airport

Published 10:00 pm Friday, September 12, 2014

By Claire Sachse


Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen confirmed Wednesday that the county is fast-tracking plans to expand its general aviation airport, Marchman Field, in response to a request from Tryon Resort.

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In a letter dated August 28 from Vaneli Bojkova, vice president of operations of Tryon Resort, to the Rutherford County Airport Authority, the resort lists several requests for enhancements to the airport, located 22 miles from the resort in Polk County.

“Our first request would be an additional 1,000 feet extension to the runway to accommodate the large business jets we expect to frequent the Rutherford County airport,” wrote Bojkova.

The letter continued, “In addition, our priorities include seeing additional lighting and an instrument landing system incorporated in order to use the airport at night and on days of reduced visibility.”

Classen said the expansion plans for the 250-acre airport have been on the transportation improvement plan for years. The request from the resort “rockets the project forward,” he said.

“This is an economic development project now, especially in this day and age when jobs are so hard to find,” said Classen.

Classen said that the county is working closely with the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation to speed up what would normally be a lengthy and bureaucratic process.

Classen is hopeful that the project could be accomplished in two to three years, although he admitted that two years “may be overly optimistic.”

“The amount of studies that have to be done on the front end is significant. Construction should only take 10-14 months, but we have to go through a year and a half of approvals from state, local and federal levels,” Classen said.

The runway extension project includes several parts, said Classen. In order to extend the 5,000 ft. runway another 1,000 feet the airport must purchase property to the north of the runway’s end.

Second, the entire runway would undergo a strengthening process in order for larger and heavier jets to take off and land.

Airport Manager Christopher Roach said that the runway currently handles single wheel planes at 12,000 pounds and double wheel planes at 25,000 pounds. The most common planes he sees at the airport are Citations, which carry six to eight passengers, and Gulfstreams, which carry 12 – 16 passengers.

Larger planes, such as a 737, however, would weigh between 35,000 – 37,000 pounds unloaded, Roach said.

“With 6,000 feet of runway, we possibly could accommodate a 737,” said Roach.

The third component to the runway project would include adding additional area to the taxiway.

Rutherford County’s Marchman Field website lists the estimated costs associated with airport expansion. These figures were derived for the state’s TIP several years ago.

The addition of 1,000 feet of runway was estimated to cost $4.4 million. The installation of precision approach equipment was estimated at $1.2 million. A parallel taxiway extension was estimated to cost $10.8 million.

Classen said that he has had conference calls with the engineering firm W.K. Dickson of Charlotte, requesting delivery of a general timeline for the project by the end of this month, and a scope of work in October, to the Airport Authority and Board of Commissioners. In Rutherford County, the two boards are comprised of the same members.  He expects the scope of work to include updated figures from what the county had estimated for the TIP.

Funding for the project would come from federal, state and local sources, according to Classen. The federal and state sources include airport improvement grants, taxes on aviation fuel, ticket sales and user fees. Local funding would come from the county’s general fund.

“This county has a history of being very aggressive with economic development projects,” said Classen. He added that the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners’ priority “is to bring good jobs and economic opportunities for jobs to the area.”

“If we can work with Polk County to get good businesses, we’ll do it. It does help the region,” he said.

The request from Tryon Resort, as well as increased interest from Rutherford County’s industries, has led the airport to reinvigorate development of the airport’s business industrial park, located west of the runway along the airport’s entrance road, according to both Classen and Roach.

Roach said that the property has fiber optic and water lines in place, as well as hangar development sites.

“The resort is interested in building hangars, but we haven’t heard much back from them on that,” said Roach.

A request for comment from Tryon Resort was not returned as of press time.