Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tacoma Narrows Airport (KTIW) administrator speaks about the future - master plan nearly complete

As the Tacoma Narrows Airport nears completion of its master plan, the county, like a pilot, must take a careful approach.

That was Deb Wallace’s view as she spoke to the public affairs forum at Cottesmore of Life Care on Thurday morning. Wallace is the airport and ferry administrator for Pierce County.

A central debate about the master plan update has been a runway extension. Wallace said no immediate plans exist to extend the runway. The plan is to protect the airspace from encroachments such as cellphone towers so that years from now, future fliers can extend the runway to accommodate a higher traffic volume.

“Our intention is to protect the airspace,” she said.

Other items in the master plan include renovating hangars and improving entrance signs.

The purpose of including protected space for a future extension of the runway and new hangar areas in the master plan is to ensure the areas are protected years from now.

“Keep in mind, the plan is a 20-year plan,” Wallace said. “It’s not that we’re going to redevelop hangars now.”

The immediate plan is to bring in business to the airport. It’s about making the area attractive to pilots and visitors. Wallace said the area in the South Sound is a huge asset. Now the word needs to get out.

“The county is not marketing a 5,000-foot runway,” she said. “What’s critical for us is marketing the area.”

One big marketing opportunity is the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay next summer. Wallace said the airport shouldn’t plan for the tournament — it should be planning for a long-term boom in business. The golf tournament will bring in lots of planes and private charters, Wallace said, and it’s a good time to show the aviation community what Pierce County has to offer.

“This is absolutely an opportunity to leverage resources,” she said.

Thanks to a gift from the Rotary, the airport is building an observation area. Wallace is careful not to call the area a park because that’s in opposition to FAA guidelines.

She said the observation area will expose children to the world of aviation. The field has many vocational opportunities, including pilots, air control and maintenance.

One last round of meetings on the airport master plan will be June 11. Times for the meetings have not been announced. Usually, a daytime meeting of the advisory committee is followed by an evening public comment meeting.