The Roswell International Air Center’s main runway, runway 2103, has not been significantly altered since its construction in 1952. But Roswell officials and the Federal Aviation Administration are considering long-term modifications to the 13,000–foot runway.
“They (the FAA) have standards and they have a lot of airports that they’re looking at but we believe that our airport and that particular runway is a huge asset to the aviation system within the United States,” said City Manager Larry Fry.
Officials have been discussing how to modify the runway since last November, when city and Air Center officials first held a joint planning conference with users of the RIAC, FAA officials, consultants and various stakeholders. There they discussed the current condition of the runway, proposed improvements, and the costs of those improvements.
While the FAA has tossed around several proposals, those that initially garnered the most concern were the grooving and shortening of the runway. These modifications would put a stop to the testing performed by RIAC’s test facility companies like Cessna, Boeing and Gulfstream, and the FAA has at this time agreed to drop those two requests.
In March, the city submitted three new modification proposals to the FAA: to keep the runway’s width as is, at 200 feet; to leave light structures at their current location; and to not groove the runway. A width of 150 feet is standard at all FAA-approved airports; the FAA encourages a uniform look at its airports to deter pilots from becoming confused. However, Griego said runway 2103’s 200-foot width provides a greater safety barrier to the companies that use it. Mayor Del Jurney noted that the city has a second runway, runway 1735, which is not as long, is grooved and can be utilized by commercial aircrafts. The FAA is primarily concerned with regional jets and incoming commercial traffic, he said.
The city reviewed the proposed modifications with the FAA last week when officials came to examine the runway. Jurney said the city hoped the visit would encourage the FAA to consider, “the facility as a whole and the potential future use of the facility. When you start talking about reducing the size, the length of our runway, when you look at reducing the width capabilities of our runway then you start to narrow the parameters a little bit. Our contention was it’s here, it’s that way, it’s one of a kind, let’s not necessarily jump to conclusions that it’s better to be narrower or it’s better to be shorter or it’s better to be grooved.”
The FAA makes modification recommendations on rare occasions, which results in considerable costs. “Each factor influences what the cost is going to be because you’re talking about a $20 or $30 million project, depending upon the width, so it’s not insignificant,” Fry said.
As of now, the city and the FAA have not set a deadline for the final recommendations and assessed costs. In the meantime, the FAA recommended the city go to the users to see about sharing the costs of future changes.
“The FAA has a pot of money … to do modifications and work at all their airports and so if we can go to the users and get buy-in and partnership from them as well … to some extent some of those users, if they can’t do it here, then they have to go overseas to do it,” Jurney said. Last week, a plane originating from Russia, which weighed around 983,000 lbs., landed at the RIAC. “There’s not many places that, that plane can land,” Jurney said.
According to its website, the RIAC is an FAA approved 139-certificated airport.