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August 31. 2012 9:09PM

$23M 6,000-foot runway project ensures smoother landings, airplane takeoffs in Nashua


From left, NH DOT Chris Clement, Nashua Municipal Airport manager Royce N. Rankin, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and FAA Administrator Mike Huerta proceed over the opening of the new 6,000-foot runway Friday morning. (Simn Rios/Union Leader Correspondent)


A 1929 Curtis Robin approaches the Nashua Municipal Airport's new runway, the first plane to officially land on the $23 million stretch of asphalt. (Simn Rios/Union Leader Correspondent)

NASHUA — The Nashua Municipal Airport's 6,000-foot runway was inaugurated Friday, marked by the landing of a 1929 Curtiss Robin monoplane and the presence of Federal Aviation Administration head Mike Huerta.

“To have a city of this size to have a gem of an airport like this is unheard of,” said Mayor Donnalee Lozeau prior to cutting the ribbon on the freshly-paved runway alongside Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

“(We) have often talked about the business that comes in through this airport, that people just don't even realize,” Lozeau said. “They just don't realize the economic value of it. But the good news is that those of us who need to realize it, and that sell the city, know very well all that you're doing.”

The new runway at the general aviation facility was designed to accommodate the largest of corporate jets, existing or conceived, to take off fully fueled.

According to FAA guidelines, a runway must be 5,700 for this purpose.

Arnie Stymest of Gale Associates, the engineering firm hired for the project, explained the proposition.

“It saves time to load up everything they can while they're here, and then go non-stop without gassing up at the next stop. When the short runway was here, they had to usually gas up if they were going across country.”

Nashua's former mayor, Donald Davidson, who chairs the Nashua Airport Authority, said planning for the new runway began in 2003.

“The entire project, everything, tree-cutting, mitigation, the conservation commission — $23 million,” Davidson said.

The project was carried out with federal funds, though the state and the municipality were required to put up 2.5 percent each, about $550,000.

It features state of the art markings, in addition to electronic navigation equipment and safety standards in compliance with FAA guidelines.

The runway is completely new, with the old landing strip still being dug up. The project will be completed by early November.

For 20 days it was out of commission for construction.

Shaheen recalled her visit to the airport last summer during the two-week FAA shutdown, which stalled the project's funding. But Congress came together and the money was allowed to flow.

“This is an important project,” Shaheen said. “Not just because of what it does in the short term for Nashua and for the economics of the region, but it's critical as a long-term investment in our infrastructure.”

Shaheen praised the jobs created in the construction of the runway, calling it the biggest general aviation project the FAA has funded in the last 10 years.

“It's these kinds of investments that will allow the kind of economic growth that we want to see in order to keep New Hampshire prosperous, keep the Nashua area prosperous, and keep the country competitive,” Shaheen said.

FAA administrator Mike Huerta landed on the runway prior to its first official landing.

“The upgrade will ensure that Boire Field remains safe and accessible to all people who visit, who live, and who work in the Nashua area,” he said.

“The pavement (on the previous runway) had exceeded its useful life, and has been rehabbed for the first time in 25 years,” Huerta added. “1987 was the last time that any major work was done on this airfield.”

Huerta said these improvements, combined with aerospace infrastructure development across the country, are creating a platform for the aviation of the future.

Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said that when he first moved to Nashua he realized the potential of the airport to help grow the local business community.

“I was surprised at the types of companies and the number of businessmen and women who come through this airport on a weekly basis or a monthly basis.”

Williams said the longer runway could increase the volume of that traffic, and allow the city to entice more business into the area.

Three months ago Williams brought scouts from a company to the Nashua Airport. “They realize that what they do requires easy transportation, air transportation, and they wanted to check out the facilities as part of their site visit to New Hampshire to figure out of Nashua's the right place for them.”

That business would bring 35 positions to the city — and Williams said such visits occur monthly.

srios@newstote.com


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