Airport plan taking flight

Tracy Airport Commission members Dave Algyer, Kurt Enderson, and Neil Daniels, along with Bollig Inc. representatives Joe Gimse, Paul Jurak and Angela Holm (not pictured) discussed a new master airport plan with the city council recently.

By Seth Schmidt

Work continues on a new master layout plan for the Tracy Municipal Airport.
Tracy has qualified for a $363,015 federal grant, which will pay for 90% of the plan’s cost. The City of Tracy and State of Minnesota are each responsible for 5% of the cost, or about $18,000. Bollig Inc. of Willmar has been working on the plan since last year.
The new long-range document will replace a plan that was drafted by Tracy’s former consulting engineering firm, Short, Elliot, & Hendrickson (SEH), in 2007.
Three Bollig representatives—Joe Gimse, Paul Jurak and Angela Holm—met with Tracy airport commission members and the Tracy City Council on August 14.
Gimse stressed that the process seeks local input to create a airport plan that works well for Tracy.
Besides evaluating the existing airport facility and its usage, the plan maps future needs, established priorities, and recommends where future improvements should be made.
Possible airport improvements considered in the plan include:
• New and/or refurbished hangar space.
• Upgraded apron areas.
• An updated runway lighting approach system.
• Removal of a swale near fueling system.
• Extension of the main paved runway to the east to create an extra safety zone, which would require filling in a ravine.
Council members asked whether the new plan could omit one of the airport’s two crossing grass runways.
Gimse said he doubted that the Federal Aviation Administration would allow one of the runways to be dropped.
“You don’t see three runways at a rural airport very often,” agreed Jurak.
The two crossing grass runways are considered a safety feature for the airport, because they provide extra options for pilots landing in windy conditions.
However, city councilmen Bill Chukuske and Tony Peterson noted that three runway approaches do create height construction restrictions in the flight paths from each of the runways.
Brief mention was made of the solar energy project planned by Geronimo Energy on airport land south of Swift Lake Park. The solar project is not expected to affect the airport plan.
The Tracy Airport is eligible for $150,000 annually in federal airport money, as long as at least 10 aircraft are registered at the airport. Several years ago, Tracy fell below the 10 aircraft threshold and temporarily lost its funding eligibility.
Airport Commission member Neil Daniels said that issue would need to be addressed if and when the registrations fell below 10.
The plane registrations are reported each spring, Gimse said.
Construction of a new airport hangar could help aircraft registrations, several people suggested, and are eligible for 90% federal funding, if the hanger is available to the public.
Peterson said it would be nice to have potential hangar sites identified soon.
Gimse said that the next step in the airport plan would be an aerial elevations study.
The Airport Layout Plan is targeted for completion by February of 2019.
Other airport commission members are Kurt Enderson, and Dave Algyer, with Peterson serving as the council representative.