Airport construction concludes

Construction at the Orcas Island Airport is nearing completion, at least for the moment.

“It was originally scheduled to be done last Thursday (May 25),” said Airport Manager Tony Simpson. “In essence it was done to extend the life of deteriorating infrastructure.”

According to Simpson, the Federal Aviation Administration is working to determine what type of aircraft the Orcas Island Airport will be retrofitted to accommodate. The construction which is wrapping up now is to be able to be compliant for use with Cessna Caravans. Kenmore Air and FedEx fly Cessna Caravan aircraft into the Orcas Island Airport on a regular basis.

“The criteria [the FAA] uses to design aircraft based on number of operations. By all accounting the Cessna Caravan is the one they’ll decide to design to,” said Simpson. “They got a little out of sequence because technically the caravan is not the aircraft our airport is made for on paper.”

According to the airport website, the FAA has decided that no major reconstruction will happen until an update is made to the official Airport Master Plan and Airport Layout Plan, which could take a few years. Future updates to expand the airport to be compatible with Cessna Caravans will not require undoing any construction done thus far.

“We didn’t really do anything that will be torn up later,” said Simpson.

It will, however, require public input and Simpson said that the airport is trying to work with the Eastsound Planning Review Committee to plan the public input.

“That’s not going to be a quick process,” said Simpson. “That’ll probably take a year.”

As an interim measure, the airport undertook several small projects. All but a very small portion of newer pavement were fog-sealed and markings repainted. Several long-standing drainage issues were reconciled. A taxiway and gate were rebuilt to move that portion of fence line farther from the runway. A problematic electric gate was replaced with a cattle guard on Cessna Road. A large metal drain pipe running under the ramp was replaced with a larger pipe and the pavement repaired to prevent further settling. The parking lot and driveway near the UPS/Aeronautical Services was paved with asphalt. Electrical service to three facilities were consolidated to reduce ongoing meter charges and bring fiber to the terminal. An automatic backup generator power for the terminal was provided. Trees in the vicinity of the wind sensor were removed to ensure the wind sensor accuracy and an access road to the EMS helipad was widened.