Ennis/Big Sky airport gets $9 million in federal grant money to repair runway
ENNIS – The Ennis-Big Sky airport will receive more than $9 million in federal grant money to improve its runway.
The runway repairs will bring the airport to Federal Aviation Administration standards for facilitating its current plane-traffic.
Design planning will begin this year and construction will start in 2020. Airport manager, Troy Hunter, expects the construction to be two-fold: minor repairs in 2020 that could cause intermittent closures, and a significant closure is likely in 2021 to widen, lengthen and level the runway.
“The slope affects aircraft performance a lot,” Hunter said. “It’s harder to land on a slope especially when it’s wet.”
The runway was originally designed for smaller airplanes, but as larger-than-intended planes became more frequent, the publicly owned airport entered a new category and FAA standards raised.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Hunter said. “It’s funding we’ve been waiting for.”
Most airplanes landing at the Ennis-Big Sky Airport are private planes. Hunter said that airport traffic could increase a little because of the safer runway conditions but that the improvements are needed to reach FAA standards that apply to the airports current use.
This year three Montana airports, Ennis-Big Sky Airport, Ravalli County Airport and Round Up Airport received federal grant funding from the FAA Improvement Program, which is meant to aid safety critical improvements for airports. Inadequate runway conditions are an important safety criterion. The FAA Improvement Program is funded through user fees, fuel taxes and other similar revenue sources.
The grant covers nearly all costs for the improvements, including paying above appraised rates for additional land needed to accommodate a longer, wider runway.