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Airport reconstruction passes first hurdle
The 402 Air Tracker features a wide wing for aerial spraying applications. - photo by By Jim Misunas

LARNED -- The Larned/Pawnee County Airport has received preliminary approval for $2.2 million in runway reconstruction from the Federal Aviation Association after a preliminary design study indicated repair is needed.
If all goes as expected, the FAA will fund 95 percent of the cost of the new runway. The city of Larned and Pawnee County would pay 5 percent. Some design and inspection costs are not included in the $2.2 million cost.
Diane Hofer is airport team leader for Olsson Associates, Lincoln, Neb., which performed the preliminary design study. 
“The pavement study indicated some cracks and some frost heave -- where water under the pavement causes the pavement to sink two or there inches,” she said.
She said tests on the soil and concrete indicated the runway should be replaced.
Larned airport manager Steve Gross said the runway suffers from the double-edged sword of freezing and thawing, most frequently during the colder months. He works full-time as an aerial applicator.
“When you have concrete heating and thawing, the concrete pushes up in places,” he said. “There are some bumps.”
The next step is for Olsson Associates to prepare engineering and design work for the runway with the project to be bid by construction firms later this year. That process should be done in the upcoming months.
The 4,200-foot by 75-foot Larned/Pawnee County runway was last resurfaced about 10 years ago with the assistance of FAA funding.
Larned City Manager Don Gaeddert is hopeful everything is progressing by the time the next federal fiscal funding cycle starts on Nov. 1. He said timing of the project will depend on when Congress provides its next funding for the FAA.
Gaeddert said state and local funding enhances the infrastructure needs of smaller-sized cities and counties.  
“It would be difficult for a city the size of Larned to maintain the infrastructure of a local airport without that assistance,” Gaeddert said. “We have an active airport. It’s important that air ambulances services like Eagle Med have safe access to the airport.”
The Larned/Pawnee County Airport, activity has varied from 10,100 to 12,100 annual operations since 1970. The current report for 2008 lists 11,900 operations.
Gaeddert said if the problem is not fixed, the condition of the airport runway would only likely get worse over time.
“Pilots enjoy having a safe and well-maintained surface to fly into,” he said. “Anytime you do a reconstruction of a runway, it only encourages pilots to fly into that airport.”