Airport panel discusses long-range planning

The Pine Bluff Aviation Commission Planning Committee met Thursday morning to discuss a long-range operations plan that it will eventually present to the full commission.

A proposed five-year capital improvement master plan for 2014-18 includes projects like rehabilitation to the aircraft parking and loading zone, improvements to the drainage system and construction of a T-hangar. The capital improvement plan was prepared by airport contract engineers James M. “Mitch” Rose and Alex Smith of Little Rock’s McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc.

Commission Chairman Ken Johnson said the overall plan will be a living document that can be altered at any time. He said the commission will be seeking input from airport patrons. Johnson and Doug Hale, the airport manager, said that determining trends of the past is a sound tool to utilize in determining future possibilities.

Commissioners discussed potential roadway and other physical improvements needed to help ensure the airport can successfully meet future challenges, and Hale said that marketing fuel sales is important because that’s a primary source of revenue for the facility.

Several ideas for increasing pedestrian traffic at the airport — including a job fair — were addressed. Rose said few other facilities in the Pine Bluff area have the capability to host and cater an event like the airport, which houses a full-service restaurant.

Hale said that the airport’s current master plan was formulated in 2000 and designed for 20 years, but is already “out-of-date and inadequate.” Commissioners said the airport’s potential was strengthened with a number of recent enhancements.