Chillicothe (Mo.) Municipal Airport Runway Upgrade Complete

Paul Sturm
Chris Flageolle (background, standing next to exit) of the Chicago-based H.W. Lochner, Inc., transportation systems engineering firm, informally addresses a group of Chillicothe city officials, media, and others Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in the Chillicothe Municipal Airport terminal, concerning completion of the long-sought runway reconstruction project at the facility. Conversion of the 3,900-feet paved runway from asphalt to concrete had been desired and studied for nearly two decades, the Lochner engineer-in-charge related, but finally came together at a cost-shared price of approximately $4 million within the last few years. Actual reconstruction began in late March and was finished - ahead of schedule and under budget - last week.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. —  Sought for the better part of two decades and having come together fiscally over the past several years, reconstruction of the paved runway at the Chillicothe Municipal Airport with concrete officially was completed Friday, ug. 14, 2020, and the airport restored to full use the following day.

“It’s been a long time coming, that’s all I can say,” Bill Kieffer, long-time airport manager, commented at the end of an informal press conference/program marking the completion. “I started flying out of here 50 years ago this year and the pavement was bad then.”

The 3,900-feet-long north-south (generally) runway previously had been composed of asphalt. Beginning this past March, under the oversight of H.W. Lochner, Inc., engineer-in-charge Chris Flageolle, primary contractor Ideker, Inc., of St. Joseph tore all of the blacktop and previous sub-base material out, replacing it with what should be a drier, more-stable sub-base and then concrete structure.

With the added assistance of electrical sub-contractor Strukel Electric, a southeast Kansas firm, not only was the paved surface replaced and upgraded, but new and additional lighting systems that will enhance the runway’s and airport’s safety were installed over approximately five months.

When the project – funded by $4 million in a 90-10 cost-share between the Missouri Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Agency and the city of Chillicothe – wrapped up, it had been completed under budget and ahead of schedule, EIC Flageolle shared.

“We’ve doubled the (aircraft weight) capacity (from 16,000 pounds to 32,000),” the EIC related. “… We’ve gone from (being accessible for) ‘this’ group of aircraft to ‘that’ group of aircraft.

“… What we’ve now included is the ability (to handle) the small corporate-jet aircraft, the 5- to 7-passenger (jet). The stuff that you see businesses using, we now have that capability.”

He later expanded, “Any pilot or any corporate aircraft (manager) looking at your airport now is (seeing it in) a whole different league from what it was a year ago, with regards to insurance requirements, capabilities, facilities, all that stuff.”

“This is an exciting project for Chillicothe,” Mayor Theresa Kelly declared in comments wrapping up last Friday morning’s gathering in the airport terminal.

Not only will the new crowned, concrete surface, supported by an improved base with better drainage, be significantly smoother for aircraft as they land and take off, it will offer significantly-longer service life – a minimum of 20 years and likely close to double that – and less maintenance effort and expense.

“The maintenance cost on a concrete runway is going to be a whole lot less than you had on the asphalt runway,” Flageolle stated, citing some relatively-minor work (joint reseal replacement and restriping) usually done about every 10-12 years.

By comparison, he detailed, asphalt routinely requires some less-extensive work about every five years or less and major repair/repaving about 10 years in. After another cycle of crack sealing and overall seal coating another handful of years after that, in about 20 years, a blacktop runway needs to be torn up completely and totally redone.

Of the work done and the upgrades made to the Chillicothe airport runway, Flageolle asserted, “This is the best of the best in today’s world and that’s what you guys have got.”

Not only will it better serve current community and local businesses’ needs in the near-term, but it should be a “plus” in economic development efforts, as well as increase the airport’s traffic count.

“The way corporate aircraft work is it’s time, it’s convenience, and all that kind of stuff,” the engineer related.

“For them to be based here and drive in their car 15 minutes to their business, as opposed to being based at Boonville or Cameron or Macon and drive an hour, yes, what you have (now) – with regard to strength and length – checks those boxes.”

He added, “Where (the airport is) at is a good spot, in regard to that corporate aircraft. What you as community leaders are wanting to try to provide as a service (and business-attraction enticement), you’re there.”