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Nashua ready to take to skies with new runway

Sunday News Correspondent

July 28. 2012 7:54PM
CAPTION: Construction crews work on the new 6,000-foot runway at Nashua's Municipal Airport last week. The new runway is expected to be finished at the end of August. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

NASHUA - A new $16 million runway project that was in jeopardy during last year's temporary shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration is now almost complete.

The project at Boire Field, the busiest general aviation airport in New England, is expected to be finished by the end of next month, according to airport director Roy Rankin Jr.

Construction crews have been busy building the 6,000-foot runway, located parallel to the existing 5,500-foot runway. Officials have said the extra 500 feet will increase the safety of business airplanes and bring the airport into compliance with FAA standards.

'They are actually a little bit ahead of schedule. They are really making good progress,' Rankin said of Continental Paving and its subcontractor, Kobo Utility Construction Corp.

There are seven phases to the runway project and workers are in phase four, said Rankin. The new runway has already been paved, but the final paving surface will be applied on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the weather conditions, he said.

All of the infrastructure work still needs to be completed, including lighting and electrical work. Additionally, the removal of the old runway must take place, explained Rankin, which he expects to only take about two days.

'This has been a seven-year process and it is finally all coming together well. We are excited about the opening,' he said. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony has been planned for Aug. 31 at 9:30 a.m.

If the runway is not open for operation on Aug. 31, Rankin said it should be up and running by Sept. 3 at the latest.

Because a temporary funding resolution was in place during last summer's shutdown of the FAA, the ground-breaking of the runway project was temporarily put on hold until a $10 million funding grant was released.

The money was used to reconstruct, extend and relocate the runway at Boire Field. The new runway is necessary, in part, to allow aircraft to take off and land with full fuel tanks, and therefore enable longer trips. Although it will still not accommodate commercial passenger service, it will support single-engine propeller planes and large-cabin corporate jets.

There are about 364 planes based at the city's airport, but even more people are interested in utilizing the facility and are waiting for the new runway to be constructed.

'We hope to have more jets in the future, and we anticipate we will,' said Rankin, admitting the sluggish economy may delay some of the interest, but he is still optimistic the benefits of the new runway will be seen soon.

Last year, about 68,000 planes took off and landed at the airport, according to Rankin, who is prepared to see those numbers increase with the opening of the longer runway.

Once the final pavement is finished this week, all of the electronic components will be installed, the wiring will be connected to a central lighting vault and the new taxiways will be extended to connect with the old taxiways.

On any given day, between 40 and 100 construction workers are finishing the new runway at the airport. Rankin said it has been minimally intrusive to airport operations, explaining the existing runway had to be shortened by about 1,000 feet throughout the project, which did impact some jet usage.

However, Rankin said it was only a temporary inconvenience that was well worth the nearly-finished outcome.

Last summer, the FAA's lack of long-term authorization had a direct impact on Nashua's Municipal Airport and the entire community. At the time work was scheduled to begin on the runway project, 42 employees at the FAA's Air Traffic Control Center in Nashua were placed on unpaid furlough.

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