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Posted: June 12, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Airport to close for repairs

The Covington Municipal Airport will close for two months, beginning in late July or early August, when the city begins rehabilitation of the 4,200 feet of older runway.

Although residents and businesses with aircrafts at the airport aren’t happy that the airport will be closed for those two months, manyseem to agree that the benefit of an upgraded airport will outweigh the inconvenience of the temporary closing. No one spoke in opposition to the construction at Monday’s Airport Advisory Committee where the changes were explained in detail.

The current runway will be chewed up and re-paved because of holes on the runway, the taxiway also will be rehabbed, the apron, where the plane tie downs and hangars are located, will be repaved and the fuel farms will be moved. Pittman Construction Company’s bid was selected at a cost of more than $3 million, but no final contract has been signed, City Manager Steve Horton said. The city will only pay $200,000 of that cost, with the state and federal departments of transportation covering the rest.

Helicopter activities will still be allowed at the airport, but anyone who needs to use their plane during the two months of construction are being advised to store their aircrafts at another airport. People will still be able to work on their aircrafts at the Covington airport as long as they don’t interfere with construction.

The runway construction will take 60 days and the taxiway, apron and fuel farms will take an additional 30 days, but once the runway is finished planes will be allowed to takeoff and land.

Horton said the construction company has to finish the projects within the time limits or they will face monetary penalties, and he said the city and GDOT has pushed for the projects to be finished in less time if possible.

Officials warned everyone to spread the word about the airport closing to avoid any unaware aircraft from attempting to land during the construction.

Mayor Kim Carter said she knows the temporary closing will be difficult to work around, but she reiterated that the airport is an important part to the city’s economic development plans.

"I know this can be painful, particularly for the FBO (fixed-base operator), but rest-assured good things will happen. We’re going to have a first-class airport," Carter said. "We’re going to continue to invest and more forward."

The FBO, Atlanta East Aviation, will have to decide if it will close during the 60 days of construction, reduce hours or stay open on a normal schedule.

In other airport news, the airport beacon will be replaced, moved and heightened to make it more visible. Currently, the beacon is only visible for a few miles in all directions, but normally beacons should be visible for up to 15 miles in all directions.

Also, the propane cannon, which emits and ignites small bursts of propane to cause a loud noise to ward off geese, has not been as effective recently according to airport officials, possibly because the geese have become accustomed to the sound. Horton said the city will send out a group of people who will shoot specials shotgun shells called shellcrackers, which are shot over the heads of geese and burst in mid-air, causing a flash and loud noise. The shells are filled with firecracker-like explosives and do not physically harm the geese.

Geese are warded off because they are a nuisance and a safety hazard and Horton said the key is to keep them constantly moving away from an area in the hope they won’t return for at least a few months.

Finally, the city recently bought some parcels of land on the west end of the airport and will remove the trees on that land to clear the flight path for planes coming from that direction.

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