The planning process to map out the future of the New Richmond Regional Airport began with a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 10.
Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) engineering firm’s Jacqueline Zirbes walked members of the Airport Commission through the planning process, expected to take roughly 18 months.
Some preliminary work including title research and a field survey have been underway since last November. And the steps to create the airport’s first master plan include:
Inventory of existing conditions
Aviation activity forecasts
Identification of facility requirements and recommendations
Alternatives analysis and selection of preferred development alternatives
Airport Layout Plan (ALP)
Implementation plan including a 20-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
While the bulk of the legwork will be done by Zirbes and her team working with airport staff, an integral part of the process involves the creation of a Stakeholder Advisory Committee which will oversee the project and the creation of a user survey to collect data critical to the planning process.
The committee is expected to be composed of five to 12 members, including representatives from the airport staff, airport users, local businesses, economic development staff from Forward New Richmond, Chamber of Commerce and key city staff.
Several forms of a draft survey are being prepared for distribution to pilots and to businesses that use the airport in early February. The survey will be accessible online via QR code.
The first meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee is expected to take place in March and at that time they are expected to review the inventory and a draft aviation activity forecast.
Though a number of projects will be under consideration, two priorities will be the providing water infrastructure at the airport for fire suppression and widening the main runway to 100 feet.
“Water is a high priority for us. We are currently restricted to 12,000 square feet fire zones for hangers. … Anything beyond 12,000 sq ft requires fire suppression and we don’t have it,” said Airport Manager Mike Demulling.
The lack of fire suppression prevents larger commercial businesses, which could potentially provide local jobs and revenue to the city from considering the airport.
The overall objective of the plan is to improve the facilities, safety and efficiency of the airport helping it to better serve its business class aircraft and customers.
Widening the airport’s main runway from 75 feet to 100 feet would be consistent with serving the business size aircraft it currently specializes in serving more safely. Part of the master plan’s objective is to verify the runways usage in order to justify funding for the expansion.
New Richmond Regional Airport (RNH) currently hosts 117 hangars, with an additional seven expected to be constructed in the near future, the most in the state.
The airport is ranked first or second in the state, with approximately 250 aircraft based there including jet, turbo-prop, twin engine piston aircraft, and single engine piston aircraft being employed for a combination of business and recreation aviation.
RNH handles roughly 35,000 to 40,000 take-offs and landings each year between the paved main runway, secondary turf runway, or waterways on Hatfield Lake. Director Demulling estimates that up to 50% of the flights are for business purposes.
Other ideas under consideration include: the addition of facilities to house snow removal and firefighting equipment, review of the seaplane base, construction of intentional turns connecting the taxiways to the main runway to comply with FAA regulations, paving of the turf runway and dedicated drone capacity.