On Sept. 18 construction began on a $2.77 million dollar project to retrofit the Hawthorne Industrial airport and bring it into line with industry standards.
The construction will take about 60 days and replace the airport’s apron, similar to an airplane parking lot, and install a pair of new 12,000 gallon fuel tanks said Chris Nocks, an engineer with Armstrong Consultants, the consulting company Mineral County hired to help with the construction.
During construction the airport will stay open for medical flights and evacuations and declared aircraft emergencies.
The construction is funded primarily by a Federal Aviation Administration grant of just more than $2.6 million, 93.75 percent of the project’s cost. Under the terms of the grant the county was expected to pay for the remaining 6.25 percent of the project, but it received a grant from State of Nevada Aviation Trust Fund.
The project’s primary goal is to replace the apron. Nocks said the old apron was still usable, but was nearing the end of its life.
“The existing apron was kind of a patchwork quilt of existing pavement sections,” he said. “[…] It would have required a lot of maintenance over the next few years.”
The new plan calls for more tie down spots — a sort of parking space for an airplane — and for the spots to be further apart than before, which required a slightly larger apron, Nocks said.
The project will also install two new 12,000 gallon fuel tanks at the airport, one to contain aviation grade gasoline, the other jetA fuel.
Nocks said 12,000 gallon tanks are standard for municipal airports because they hold a truckload of fuel. Trucks typically cart in about 10,000 gallons of fuel in a load, but the tanks need to be larger to account for the expansion of the fuel.
The construction at the airport is expected to open several doors in Hawthorne. The expanded apron will allow Drone America, a company that specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles, to operate from the airport if the county can get the permits it needs from the FAA.
The new jetA fuel system could also bring more business to the town.
“I think once the word gets out that jet fuel is available again in Hawthorne, and that the fuel system in is new, you’ll see more air traffic in and out of Hawthorne,” Nocks said.
And air traffic, just like traffic on the ground, usually means more business.
“It probably won’t have a huge impact initially, but I think it will have a long term impact because it will generate more activity at the airport, which generally results in more meal sales downtown and more rooms rented out and things like that,” Nocks said.