By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
CAHOKIA — The charter-flight business of St. Louis Downtown Airport is booming and the facility has plans to help that progress along.
The airport is pursuing a long-range plan to improve its main taxiway to allow it to handle larger craft. The largest aircraft that can be accommodated now is a Boeing 757-300.
The airport is the third-busiest in Illinois after O’Hare and Midway. It draws much of its traffic from private aircraft that are bringing business people, sports teams and entertainers to St. Louis. The airport is owned and operated by Bi-State Development.
“We have a fairly busy charter operation. As aircraft get bigger and bigger, they are moving into larger aircraft for these charters. One of the projects we’ve been working on for a while now is relocation of Taxiway Bravo. It’s going to be a 50-foot taxiway, capable of supporting some of the largest aircraft an airport can operate,” said Airport Director Erick A. Dahl.
The east-west taxiway serves the airport’s longest runway, a 7,002-foot stretch, but it’s generally considered too close to the runway.
“We have a study being done to see what that taxiway will cost, where it should be located and to make sure it’s designed for the future,” Dahl said. “All the infrastructure here is designed to last a minimum of 20 years and sometimes 40, so when we build things we want to make sure we build them correctly and with the long-term success of the airport in mind.”
The study will take about a year and look at types of aircraft, costs, regulations and whether aircraft can use the runway as a taxiway at the same time.
The overall project is estimated at $13.5 million. Funding will come 90 percent federal through the Airport Improvement Plan project fund, 5 percent from the state and 5 percent from the airport.
The airport is suggesting to the Federal Aviation Administration a multiple-phase plan that would be implemented between now and 2022.
Part of the plan includes another taxiway that needs to be built for construction of an “engine run-up facility” that Jet Aviation and other operators could use to test engines on the grounds.
“There really isn’t a great place to do that at the airport right now, so we are looking at building a taxiway to an area of the airport where there are no hangars or surrounding development and building a dedicated facility,” Dahl said.
The structure would have walls but no roof, designed so that engine noise would go upward instead of outward, lessening the environmental effect.
Dahl said the airport would like to build the taxiway leading up to the run-up pad, then proceed with the relocation of Taxiway Bravo.