Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jet ready: Runway resurfacing wraps up Ashe County Airport upgrades

Jefferson, North Carolina -   Corporate America is now free to move about the High Country.

Before the Ashe County Airport’s highly anticipated runway extension project was completed, industry leaders looking to bring their corporate footprint to the High Country were reluctant about such a move due to the short runway.

Large corporate jets were either too big or their insurers weren’t comfortable with the aircraft making touchdown on the surface due to lower load bearing ratings.

But times have changed. While Ashe County might not join the same ranks as Charlotte International or Tri-Cities airports, the little unassuming airport is now ready to accept the larger jet propulsion aircraft. You don’t have to read Forbes magazine either to know that larger private jets are the vehicles of choice for CEOs and other executives tasked with scouting out new homes for their factories or industrial complexes.

Airport manager Eric Payne briefed commissioners Monday morning on the latest happenings at the county’s newest rejuvenated hub.

Following the extension project, crews finished the resurfacing of the runway late last week. Newly installed lights will complement and illuminate the elongated surface.

The old pavement, which was milled off in the early stages of the project, will be rejuvenated and used in the U.S. 221 widening project.

“Once they removed the old pavement, they started putting down a new surface,” said Payne. “It’s a more coarse type of asphalt. The old portion of the runway received four and a half new inches.”

Two taxi lanes and the accompanying apron also received a fresh coast of asphalt.

“We were going for a 45,000-pound load bearing (runway) with two wheels, but ended up with a 55,000 load bearing,” said Payne. “Those are pretty good sized airplanes coming in.”

New lighting should be completed in the spring.

Welcoming new travelers to the High Country’s airport of choice is a newly updated beacon tower, which can be seen almost anywhere in the Jeffersons on a clear night. The rotating light acts like a lighthouse for incoming planes.

“The commissioners already voted for a five-year maintenance deal with the state,” said Payne. “We just received $20,000 that didn’t cost anything to replace the rotating beacon. The tower was just painted last Saturday and Sunday.”


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