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State, feds award airport $1.4 million

Stanly County is one of 27 recipients to garner state and federal funds for much-needed improvements at its airport.

The local airport is set to receive more than $1.4 million, one of the larger appropriations in the $24.7 million total awards, according to the N.C. Board of Transportation. For Stanly, the funds will go toward the rehabilitation of the airport’s runway and taxiway lighting.

Ken Swaringen, director of the Stanly County Airport, characterized the scheduled improvements as critical to the facility’s safety.

“Dependable airfield lighting is crucial to airfield operations,” Swaringen said. “Pilots need to have every confidence that the system is in place and ready to support them whenever they fly.”

As a result of the upgrades the airport should realize cost savings.

The project is focusing on runway and taxiway lighting that is more than 20 years old.

“Being an older system keeping it fully operational can have its challenges,” Swaringen said. “This project will take us from medium intensity incandescent lighting to high intensity LED lighting.  This will offer better performance, lower operating cost and provide the airport with other options when upgrading/replacing the instrument landing system in the future.”

In the works for a couple of years, the project is presently in the bid phase with bids scheduled to begin at month’s end, Swaringen added.

Approved by the board at its July meeting, the appropriations are aimed at providing better runway lighting, new fuel tanks and safer taxiways. Funds awarded do not in all cases represent the total cost of the project.   

Nearby Anson County Airport, located just miles from the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, is set to get nearly $1 million to erect a second phase of perimeter fencing to keep wildlife from posing safety hazards on the runway.

“Just like when you’re driving on the highway, deer and other wildlife present a danger to aircraft that are landing or taking off,” said Chris Joffsen, who helps manage the airport for Anson County. “Once complete, operations here will become much safer and pilots won’t have to worry as much about encountering something on the runway.”

Perimeter fencing already secures Stanly’s airport.

North Carolina airports serve as a vital economic engine connecting people and business enterprises with the world. They are among the primary economic drivers in their local communities.

Airports and aviation-related industries contribute more than $31 billion to North Carolina’s economy each year, according to a 2016 report. There are 123,400 airport-related jobs in the state.

The NCDOT Division of Aviation is responsible for airport and aviation system planning and development, and provides funding to local communities for constructing and improving airports throughout the state.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.