New Redfield airport completed, grand opening set for spring of 2019
By Shiloh Appel
After a process of more than 11 years, the new Redfield airport is finally finished. The old airport runway was closed down on April 20th of 2018 in order for construction of the new runway to begin. The new runway officially opened five months later on September 18, 2018. However, according to City Finance Officer, Adam Hansen, plans for the new airport were already in motion prior to August of 2006.
"There have been multiple studies done on the federal level regarding [the] environment and, basically, a lot of planning went into this airport. Every 'i' was dotted and 't' crossed at least fourteen times, so there has been a lot of back and forth between Redfield City, the State of South Dakota and the Federal Aviation Administration throughout the last eleven years," said Hansen.
Hansen said that some problems arose due to complaints by local pilots who were opposed to the project. These problems caused the construction of the new runway to be postponed.
"the federal government would double check everything to make sure everything was just perfect, and then quadruple check it and then check it times five," said Hansen. " We came up with the same conclusion eight times over."
According to Hansen, the construction of a new airport runway was deemed necessary due to safety risks. The old runway's protection zones, or RPZ's, crossed a federal highway and a county road, which is a safety hazard according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The RPZ's are at the end of the runways. They are there to protect the people on the ground. Not the pilots, but the people on the ground," said Hansen.
Hansen said that several pilots had also expressed an interest in getting "instrument approach," a system that predetermines maneuvers, enabling aircraft to land safely.
"We could never have instrument approach and never do anything because of the layout of that old runway," said Hansen. "This [new runway] will solve those problems."
Currently, the airport is in the process of obtaining instrument approach, or IAP. Right now, the new airport offers a wider and longer runway than the old one at 75ft wide by 3,500ft long. (The old runway was 60ft. by 3,300ft.) It has ample runway protection zones that do not cross roadways, new lights that can be turned on by pilots' radios, precision approach path indicators (PAPI's) that let pilots know they are approaching at the correct slope, and a new pilot's lounge.
Avera Careflight has already used the new runway four times. According to Hansen, it has also been used by pheasant hunters and other pilots as well.
"There is an actual sign-in book in our pilot's lounge and sometimes they do [sign it], but sometimes they don't," said Hansen.
It is recorded that more than 3,000 operations per year were completed at the old Redfield runway. (These operations consider taking off from the runway as one operation and landing as one operation). These statistics were presented to the federal government as validation for Redfield's need of a new runway.
"Basically, we couldn't just say that we wanted this new runway. The federal government wasn't going to give us 3.2 million dollars just because we wanted it. You have to justify them spending the money," said Hansen.
As far as the total construction cost of the runway thus far, Hansen said it is $3.5 million. The federal government paid $3.15 million, the State of South Dakota paid $175,000 and the City of Redfield paid $175,000.
"That is just the construction and engineering of the runway. There has been a lot more money spent up to that point," said Hansen.
Hansen said that the general contractor for the airport, Midland Construction, and the electrical engineers, Efraimson Electric, completed the project "under budget and before their deadline."
In fact, they opened six weeks earlier than planned.
"They did a great job. They were fast, efficient and economical," said Hansen.
The grand opening for the new airport is planned for the spring of 2019.
"We are going to hopefully invite some dignitaries in. SDSU has a flight simulator. We are going to ask them to come [bring it]. We are going to ask some pilots to show off their plans. We are going to make it a big day to show off this beautiful new runway that the citizens of Redfield helped pay for," said Hansen.