Friday, September 07, 2012

First local public heliport planned for Ormond Beach

ORMOND BEACH — Construction at the city's municipal airport is about to take off after receiving a federal grant that will improve sections of the facility and pave the way for what could be the county's first public heliport.

Last September, the city submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program, which so far this year has apportioned more than $229 million to states. On Aug. 31, the city was awarded a $2.3 million grant.

Construction is expected to begin in November, which will include the rehabilitation of three taxiways and construction of a new compass rose, a feature that provides direction for pilots. The compass rose has faded and currently does not meet FAA regulations, said Airport Manager Steve Lichliter.

But the addition that is seen as key for the airport is a heliport, which would separate helicopter and airplane operations and could help lure businesses to the area.

"It's the least expensive part of the project," Lichliter said, aside from repainting the compass rose.

It's arguably, though, the most important part, he said.

Today, helicopter pilots don't have a designated landing or take-off area, Lichliter said. But with the heliport, pilots will be given approved routes to separate plane traffic from helicopters. Those routes will also take helicopter traffic away from residential housing, Lichliter said.

Once established, airport officials envision the heliport being used by business executives who want to hitch a ride to Orlando. It's believed that it will be the only public-use helicopter facility in the county.

"Hopefully, the airport will be able to serve that need when businesses come to the area," he said.

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