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A new flight plan: Public reviews future plans for airport at open house

NATCHEZ — Hundreds of visitors stopped by the Natchez Convention Center between 10:30 a.m. and noon Thursday for an open house to get a glimpse of a master plan created for the Adams County Airport Commission.

The New Orleans firm of Kutchins & Groh spent more than a year creating the master plan that is required by and funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Inside the convention center, members of the engineering team that conducted the study stood beside placards on easels and explained portions of the plan to members of the community who stopped by during the open house.

Key findings of the master plan include the need for rehabilitation of runway pavement, lighting improvements on runway 13-31, demolition of abandoned runway 5-23, rehabilitation and demolition of some taxiways to improve airfield circulation and replacement and possible relocation of the rotating beacon and its tower.

“How the FAA funds and works with airports is through an airport master plan and the airport here hasn’t had a master plan done in a long time,” said George Groh, managing principal of Kutchins & Groh. “This will give the airport and community direction for the next 20 years on what should be done at the airport and lays the foundation and a road map for that.”

The master plan included a pavement management plan on the all of the pavement at the airport Groh said.

“It found that there are some areas that are in fair condition and some areas that need a lot of work,” Groh said. “This helps justify to the FAA that they need to fund these types of projects. That’s good. That is why the FAA paid to have this work done.”

Another part of the master plan was a Geographic Information System study that Groh said is the future of how the FAA will manage airports.

“They have to get in their database and locate obstructions around the airport,” Groh said. “It is a pretty intense study that is part of this. The FAA is putting a lot in to this airport just to get that information for the future.”

Groh said taxiways are a common problem with airports that were built 75 years ago such as the Adams County Airport that was built in 1944 and ’45.

“There are some geometry issues needed to bring the airport (taxiways) up to current standards,” Groh said.

Hayden Kaiser III, of Jordan, Kaiser & Sessions LLC., who was part of the master plan team, was on hand to present a portion of Thursday’s presentation.

“Kutchins & Groh have really done a good job of pulling the team together,” Kaiser said. “All of it is key to getting funding for the airport.”

Kaiser said the next step is to present the master plan to the FAA office in Jackson and then in Atlanta for final approval.

“They’ve already got a bug put in their ear,” Kaiser said. “The main runway has been on our capital improvements plan for years, and they know the funding is needed to overlay that. They’ve already approved the first phase, which is the engineering for that and the next phase after that is going to be the overlay of that and paint.”

Kaiser said cost estimates for the overlay are approximately $2.5 million, for which funding is matched with the FAA paying 90%, the state paying 5% and local agency, the airport, paying 5%.

“For the airport, 5% of a $2.5 million job is a lot of money,” Kaiser said.