Runway Construction Going Smoothly

2017 is a new year for opportunity and change here at the Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM). Our biggest project planned for this year has been happening all month with the reconstruction of our main runway, 16/34 (the numbers are derived from the compass heading each approach end points).

After thousands of tires touching down the centerline and a fleet of snowplows scraping its surface, our long runway needed to be redone. To accomplish this, BGM’s Department of Aviation obtained $11.9 million in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants, a state Department of Transportation (DOT) grant, and Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) funds to fill the need.

After receiving the funding, a bid was put out and L&T Construction of Richmondville, NY was awarded the contract. L&T is currently working with McFarland Johnson of Binghamton, NY and a handful of other companies to accomplish this large project. In total, seven companies are working together on our new runway.

How do you get ready for something this big, you may ask? One word: planning. This project’s planning started in 2015 with the selection of the best time of year to do this project that had the least interference with BGM’s and the airline’s normal operations.

Notifications were sent and the surveying began. For a project this big with only one month to complete, there is no room for surprises for McFarland Johnson and L&T Construction. This makes accurate surveying critical. At the same time, research also goes into the current pavement, the runway’s electric grid, access points, staging areas, equipment needed, security protocol and badging, and much more. Planning is key for a well-paved runway surface that will last.

To start building our new and improved main runway at BGM, about 480,000 sqft. of asphalt milling had to take place. That equates to about 50 football fields of asphalt being scraped up and milled into pebble-size chunks. Certain areas also included about 99,000 sqft. of sub base that required removal. These spots are then filled in with 108,000 sqft. of new base.

Then comes the tedious compacting of the base to prepare it for paving. To ensure complete safety and accuracy before any paving occurs, the compaction is tested with asphalt strips. Once it shows a promising, successful result, the paving process may begin. About 52,000 tons of asphalt is transported onto the airport grounds to be paved. In the meantime, workers lay about 25,000 ft. (approximately 5 miles) of lighting cables to the 67 new runway edge lights that line the runway. Once pavement is complete, the FAA requires special grooving in the asphalt to give aircraft more traction in bad weather conditions. For our project’s purposes, there will be 348,000 sqft. of grooves on BGM’s runway. The last step is to paint markings, which will cover about 143,000 sqft. of the runway’s surface to help aircraft navigate and mark safety area boundaries.

A project of this scale completed in only one month’s time requires the most efficient use of time possible. This means around the clock work being done at the airport. There are day and night shifts of 15 to 20 workers on the clock at all times from L&T alone. Portable light towers line the edge of the entire runway to make night work possible.

As for equipment, the team is using two large pavers, two pavement millers, seven end dumps (or off-road trucks), seven vibrating compactors, four excavators, five bulldozers, and a variety of other complex, specialized equipment. One such machine is a road grader that uses computerized and robotic systems to grade the runway base layer to perfect dimensions.

At peak production, there can be 15-20 dump trucks, asphalt trucks, and delivery trucks on the road at a time. Most of the crew also has trucks to get up and down the runway. There is always something being done at any time of day to ensure this project is completed on time.

Airport operations must maintain certain safety measures to keep operating aircraft safe and the airport secure during construction of this magnitude. Constant checks are done on the construction barriers set in place to prevent aircraft from moving or landing on the closed surface. Our other runway that has remained active for non-commercial flights this month is constantly checked for any debris or construction material that may have ended up on it.

Vehicles or persons wishing to enter the active surface require contact to the air traffic control tower to gain access. Since most construction vehicles on site do not have air radios, airport operations also takes care of these escorts.

Lastly, security is another important responsibility of operations. We issue airport access badges and do constant security checks of the access gates for the construction zones.

The airline industry is one of the fastest-changing industries in the world. For smaller, regional airports to compete, they must be up-to-date on all the latest innovations and technologies. This is why the runway reconstruction is a step in the right direction for the community BGM proudly serves. This runway project employs hundreds of people that are part of our community. In addition, it keeps grant money and other funds within Broome County.

Not only is BGM getting a new runway, but the wealth is shared in the many people working to make this dream a reality.

Q&A Video Blog #2!

In order to keep the citizens of Broome County informed of everything happening at our airport that affects them, we wanted to answer more of your questions regarding BGM and our community.

On April 5th, BGM’s very own Commissioner of Aviation, Dave Hickling, and Deputy Commissioner of Aviation, Mark Heefner, went LIVE on Facebook for the second time to answer your submitted questions and concerns regarding the airport!

They weren’t able to get to all of them and wanted to provide more detail for certain ones. We thought the best way for our supporters to know what’s happening at their airport is through our blog!

Here’s what you missed if you were unable to tune-in live…

 

Question from Sue Bear James: Is the airport closed for all flights during May.

Answer: The airport is not closed, but we will have one runway under construction.

Just like our highways, runways need to be maintained and sometimes repaved. Since we have two runways here at BGM, we will have one of those runways available for use through most of this project.

When the project was planned, designed, and bid last summer, we spoke with all the airlines and let them know of our plans and that our secondary runway would be available for use. At that time, all of the airlines indicated that they intended to continue to operate on the secondary runway while the primary runway was being repaved.

Since that time, we have lost service from two of those airlines leaving Delta (which is operated by SkyWest). About two months ago, we were notified by SkyWest that they had looked at their performance data and realized that in order to operate from the alternate runway, they would have to do so with a reduced passenger load and that it wouldn’t be profitable enough for them to do so. Therefore, they have decided to suspend their operations during the time only one runway is available.

We know it is an inconvenience to our passengers and we’re truly sorry that SkyWest has decided not to use our secondary runway. We do, however, understand and respect their business decision.

The airport will be remaining open for corporate, private, military, medical, and other flights that would need to come in and out of the Binghamton area. These flights will be using our secondary runway.

 

Question from Marlow James: Can we get a commuter shuttle to Syracuse? Train service anywhere?

Answer: We haven’t heard of any infrastructure improvements involving a commuter train to/from Binghamton. There is currently bus transportation available for commercial traveling to and from Broome County.

 

Related questions from: 

Stan Vail: Is another airline coming to BGM.

Robin Laferme Donohoe: Darn shame that I couldn’t book a trip to Fort Lauderdale Florida from Binghamton Airport! Had to book it from Elmira. Not happy about that at all.

Lisa A Conklin Koch: Do you intend of having another airline or two, not a delta affiliate, come into Binghamton? Possible one that offers direct flights to destinations or hubs into JFK for a reasonable fee similar to Syracuse? Maybe allegiant? Jet blue ? Southwest? I fly for 1000 or less round trip When i fly out of Syracuse , Albany or Elmira.

Tammy Warner: Bring Allegiant air to the airport, they offer cheaper flights and more people in the area would use your airport. Currently I travel to Elmira, Syracuse or Scranton as do many other because it is just not affordable to use our home town airport

Dino Christopher: What are you people doing to attract airlines to come back to Binghamton?

Answer: We talked about this last month and explained the business models of JetBlue and Southwest. If you look at their route maps on their websites, you’ll see that they stick to larger markets. Syracuse and Albany would be about the smallest markets they go into.

Allegiant would work for us very well and we’ve been giving them proposals for over ten years. Our biggest challenge with Allegiant is the fact that they do fly into Elmira, Syracuse, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and folks from Binghamton are going to those airports and flying with that airline already. Allegiant knows that, so when our airport tries to get them to come into BGM, they let us know that they are already getting our passengers and the business from the Binghamton market and don’t feel that they must come to our airport.

There are, however, other airlines that are coming into the picture that can provide direct service to Florida or other leisure markets from BGM and we will continue to have discussions with them to hopefully bring them into our market.

That leads us into the question of, what are we are doing to attract airlines to come back to Binghamton? Well, we offer incentive packages that include waiving any fees and charges, as well as providing revenue guarantees for a period of time to mitigate any financial risks of starting new service.

However, what the airlines really want to see is that any new service will be supported and that it will be used by the community. Historically, that has been our biggest hurtle. As mentioned earlier, when people from Broome County choose to use other airports, it makes our conversations with airlines to bring more service to BGM that much more difficult. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop us from presenting our case.

 

Question from David Morford: It is a shame that we have lost service in BGM but of the three airlines the Delta service was/is my favorite. I find their prices to be fairly competitive. My question is regarding their service. Currently they exclusively fly the 50 passenger CRJ into BGM. Do they have any plans to begin using the larger CRJ700 or CRJ 900, or the Embraer E175 that they have in their fleet? These newer, larger planes are more comfortable and have a First Class cabin. Thanks.

Answer: One of the Airlines that Commissioner Hickling met with recently is SkyWest (who flies for Delta). They discussed a need for additional capacity for the Detroit route. Going to a CRJ700 aircraft would address that need, however, increased frequency with the 50-seat aircraft could have connectivity advantages, too. Ultimately, it would be the airline’s decision how to increase capacity when we get to that point.

 

Question from Ken Hauer: Why did you lead people to believe that a new airline was coming in by using the parent company name of the only airline left at the airport? Also, why did you mislead people by saying the ONLY airline was adding an extra flight, when in fact they cut service every winter down to two flights, then bring them back up to four flights in the spring. So what happened to the other flight? They didn’t add one, they cut one.

Answer: The Greater Binghamton Airport had no intent to mislead anyone. We try to clarify that our Delta flights are operated by SkyWest very often. We had two flights to Detroit, SkyWest added a third flight, now we have three.

 

Question from Cindy Wenzel-Scott: It would be more convenient to fly from Binghamton to my daughter and grandbabies in Louisiana. Had to make arrangements to fly from Syracuse as it was a hundred dollars cheaper to do so. Why is it that? Just because we are smaller and Elmira too, why do charge so much? If you want customers to come thru your airport make it affordable.

Answer: Firstly, please understand that the airport has no control over the airlines pricing, where they fly to, when they fly, or any other business decision. Also keep in mind that airfares from any airport are always changing. Airline ticket pricing is pretty complicated, but generally the cost per seat goes up as the seats fill up.

If you can plan your trip early, you have a greater chance of getting great fares from BGM. Because Syracuse is a larger market, however, they have more seats available and therefore will have a greater supply of cheaper seats.

We know there are times that we can’t compete with Syracuse. It’s kind of like our mall competing with what the mall in Syracuse offers. However, if you can plan early enough, we can compete with their airfares.

 

Question from Lisa A Conklin Koch: Also your parking is expensive and I like to leave my vehicle but what you charge is like paying a car payment.

Answer: Our parking rates are competitive and generally less than our neighboring airports. We do parking surveys several times throughout the year to ensure we’re giving our community the best available value. Revenues we bring in from our parking operations help to offset the costs associated with running the airport as a whole.

 

Question from Michael Nadolski: My question is this. What effect would the proposed budget have on BGM? It seems it wants to limit or eliminate service to small to medium sized airports?

Answer: We’re unsure if you’re referring to the federal budget on this one, but it seems like that’s the way you’re leaning. So, we’ll do our best to answer that.

We’re not going to surmise what we think the intent is for the proposed budget. However, it does seem like funding to airports that received EAS (Essential Air Service) monies may be in jeopardy of losing those funds. BGM is not one of those communities.

There have not been any changes proposed to the funding of the AIP (Airport Improvements Project) program where BGM does receive funding for infrastructure projects such as the $11.9million runway project in May.

Overall, the industry change is moving toward larger planes in larger markets. BGM still holds a strong grip on its current service to Detroit (DTW) with Delta. Delta has communicated that they are very happy with our market’s performance and do not intend on leaving our airport. If there are changes that affect BGM in regards to federal spending, we will ensure that the County Administration is aware and will distribute that information as we get it.

 

Question from Michael Patchett: If the Airshow is coming back it should feature two demonstration teams Blue Angles and the Thunderbirds

Answer: We’re going to do our best to have an Air Show in 2018. We’ve already put in an application for the military demonstration aircraft teams that include the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. Smaller communities like ours generally don’t get those teams on a regular basis. However, we feel we have a good chance of getting one and will make a strong push to accomplish that goal.

Look for more information throughout the year from BGM in regards to a potential Air Show.

 

Thank you to everyone who submitted their questions, tuned in to watch us LIVE, or are now reading this blog post. We love this community and are excited for all the positive happenings coming to BGM this summer! Remember to #FlyBGM!

Humans of BGM: Brittany & Jenny Celebrate!

This month, we met up with Brittany and her mother, Jenny, while they were waiting for their outgoing flight. Brittany now lives and works in the United States’ famous windy city: Chicago. She was headed back with her mother tagging along for the ride. While Brittany now resides in Chicago, she and her family are originally from the city of Binghamton. The Southern Tier will always be “home!”

Brittany flew in a few days before we ran into her at the Greater Binghamton Airport just for a long weekend and to spend time with her family. The main purpose of her trip? Her step-father’s retirement party! The family decided to throw a party and celebrate his successful career. Brittany wanted to make sure she was in on all the fun!

Brittany’s step-father, who is also Jenny’s husband, was celebrating his retirement from the New York State Police. He served as a State Trooper for 35 years. We would like to sincerely thank him for his service and wish him an enjoyable retirement!

A big thank you to Brittany and Jenny for taking the time to chat with us and for flying BGM!

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