Monday, July 08, 2013

Airport gets a makeover: Terminal renovations underway -- Northwest Alabama Regional (KMSL), Muscle Shoals, Alabama

MUSCLE SHOALS — If you haven’t been to Northwest Alabama Regional Airport recently, you have missed the initial stages of a face-lift at the terminal.

The building is in a state of transition with metal wall studs exposed in places, covered by clear plastic in others.

Much of the building is already covered with new wall board, which will eventually be covered with a new exterior finish.

The work is part of a multimillion dollar renovation project that will not only enhance the appearance of the facility, but alleviate water problems and make the building more energy efficient.

“The airport renovation and rehabilitation project is intended to elevate the reputation of the facility from a place where some travelers try to avoid to one they wish to utilize due to convenience,” Airport Director Barry Griffith said. “The last upgrade occurred in 1993 and since that time, the building had begun to show signs of deterioration in certain areas.”

The project will improve the energy efficiency of the building, which also houses Shoals Flight Center and the Silver Airways ticket counter.

In addition to improving passenger comfort, Griffith said, it will provide a sustainable exterior building structure that will alleviate moisture problems.

“This project will include an entirely new wall system composed of new exterior cladding, new wall and roof air and moisture barriers, new wall and roof insulation, a new roofing system and new interior wall finishes,” Griffith said. “New entrance canopies and signage will accent this new, high-tech exterior facade.”

He said the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

H&N Contractors is the general contractor for the project. The company submitted the low bid of $1,035,000, Griffith said.

Griffith said the project is ahead of schedule and under budget.

“We are thrilled to be part of this important project for the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority,” said Mike Holbrook, project management director at Fuqua & Partners Architects. “The airline terminal building will get a sleek new skin and be fitted with a high-tech energy envelope, perhaps the first of its kind in the private sector in north Alabama. This renovation should provide a low-maintenance exterior and comfortable interior environment for many years to come.”

With the exterior walls being removed, temporary walls must be in place inside the terminal.

The U.S. Department of Energy describes the “building envelope” as a building’s foundation, walls, roof, windows and doors. A building controls the flow of energy between the interior and exterior of the building. A well designed envelope allows the building to provide comfort for the occupants and respond efficiently to heating, cooling, ventilating and natural lighting needs, according to the Energy Department.

Energy efficient

Griffith said the improvements to the terminal will make the building more energy efficient, which should lead to lower utility costs.

The renovations required the relocation of the Silver Airways ticket counter to the area formerly occupied by airport management, which is in the center of the terminal building. Shoals Flight Center has been temporarily relocated to a modular building in the north parking lot.

Silver Airways began service in the Shoals about a year ago and has experienced a bumpy ride so far.

Airline boardings that initially dipped have been steadily increasing, but Griffith said they are still about 40 percent less than the airport’s best year.

Two travelers sat outside the terminal one day last week waiting for an outbound flight that was delayed due to severe weather in Altanta.

Prem Bindraban, who was visiting the International Fertilizer Development Center, said the construction did not disrupt his flight.

“I’m sitting outside because I don’t like the air conditioning,” he said.

He and his traveling companion, Antyama Massada, said the airport should consider marketing the Shoals area to entice people to use the new air carrier.

Bindraban said only three people were on the flight into Muscle Shoals.

To put people in the planes, Massada suggested that the airline or the local airport authority advertise more and target Atlanta to entice people to visit the Shoals with travel packages for events like the W.C. Handy Music Festival or to fish or play golf.


Members of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce’s Air Services Committee have discussed at length ways to market the airport and the new air service, including marketing to areas around the Shoals, but held off on implementing a marketing campaign while Silver Airways tweaked its online reservation system.

“We’ve taken a cautious approach in implementing parts of the marketing plan,” Griffith said.

Griffith said the airport has been marketing local air service in various publications.

Mike Reiter, project manager for the airport’s aviation consultant, the Michael Baker Corp., said the project will provide a fresh new look to the airport terminal as it continues to perform as the transportation gateway to the Shoals.

The cost of the renovations is being covered by the entitlement funding the airport receives from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Griffith said the airport board has agreed to allocate FAA money to the project for the next four years.

“Passengers will soon be able to enjoy a modern, hassle-free airport in the Shoals area that offers twice-a-day service to Atlanta at an affordable price,” Griffith said.


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