ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County soon will receive $160,373 in state money to finish relocating one hangar at the county airport and rebuild the area where planes park and refuel.
The money — announced Friday — comes from the aviation division of the N.C. Department of Transportation, part of $4.7 million going to 11 airports. County commissioners last year approved spending $1.3 million to upgrade the airport — with 10 percent of that money coming from the county and 90 percent from the state.
“It’s a great deal for the taxpayers of Richmond County,” County Manager Bryan Land said Friday. “The existing asphalt was 50 years old” and cracking under the weight of planes, and the relocated hangar “was in the sight (line) from the terminal to the runway.”
On Friday, airport manager Sam Haigler pointed out the changes to the airport, which Land said were 65 percent complete.
The apron, which sits on clay, has been dug up and situated on an underlay of gravel so it won’t crack so easily or severely. And the errant hangar — now just beams and struts — stood waiting to be reskinned.
“In the last six weeks, all this (old asphalt) was taken up,” Haigler said of the ground beneath his feet. The new asphalt should be laid by mid-January, he said.
The relocated hanger now sits in a cluster of three buildings that can accommodate about a dozen planes. Behind them and lining the runway on one side sits a row of buildings that can house about 20 more planes.
“A lot of industry does benefit from this airport,” Haigler said. On Friday alone, a corporate jet from California flew in for a visit.
Haigler said the airport handled about four flights in and out daily, including some with bigger Gulfstream jets.
The former apron, he said, “was old, not functional — not at the standards for handling a larger plane.”
Land said he hoped the improvements would make the county more attractive to businesses.
“We definitely want to see increased use,” he said.
The DOT announcement Friday concerned money to improve safety and connectivity at airports across the state. Projects at those airports included runway extensions, paving, taxiway lighting and repairs to airport aprons, where planes park or refuel.
“Airports are a very critical part of our transportation system in North Carolina,” said Bobby Walston, director of the N.C. DOT Division of Aviation, which announced the disbursals. “They provide the connectivity that we need not only in our state but to other states in the nation, as well as global markets.
“These grants will allow airports to become safer, and better serve the pilots, passengers and businesses that use them.”
North Carolina has 72 publicly owned airports.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]