Nearly all the air traffic that lands at are departs from the Great Bend Municipal Airport relies on a surface dating back to the Second World War, airport Manager Martin Miller said.
Now that runway is showing its age, Miller told the City Council Monday. He displayed a series of slides showing the extent of the problem.
Dangerous cracks pop up as the original concrete disintegrates, which is more prevalent in the heat of the summer. It was a safety hazard in 2012 and has only gotten worse.
At issue is the main runway which handles 99 percent of the facilities operations, he said. The north-south runway is 800,000 square feet of World War II-era concrete laid in 1943 when the airport served as an Army airbase to train crews for flying the B-29 Superfortress.
In 2003, it was coated with three inches of asphalt. Then, in 2010, it was seal coated and repainted.
However, Miller said much of that work has eroded. They spend much of their time patching cracks and holes, milling off blow-ups and removing the gravel and crumbled asphalt that breaks loose.
The airport sees a lot of business. There are 50 aircraft based there, which is more than in past, and there are about 1,000 airplane operations in and out each month.
The hazards come with the risk of an aircraft landing gear catching one of the broken stretches of the strip, Miller said. “We just can’t assume that liability.”
Even the Federal Aviation Administration agrees that the runway is a priority, Miller said. It is willing to help fund what will be a total replacement of the surface since it is now beyond repair.
This could be costly, he said. The FAA will cover 90 percent of the expense, however the city’s 10 percent will still be a lot of money.
The project is still in the design phase at the FAA. The total price tag has yet to be determined.
But, regardless, city officials see the need.
“It looks like we have to do it,” Mayor Mike Allison said.
There is also a cross-wind runway at the airport that is deteriorating. However, it has stabilized some and the main runway has superseded it in importance.