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CONWAY -- A recent $1.4 million grant to the Conway Municipal Airport from the Federal Aviation Administration will kick off a multimillion-dollar capital improvement plan that spans the next five years.

The FAA grant will allow the airport to build a hangar apron and taxi lane as it adds 12 airplane hangars to the 46 such buildings currently on the south end of the airfield.

"The dirt work was started two weeks ago," said Michelle Anthony, the airport's director. "By spring, we will be laying the concrete."

The contract for the expansion was awarded to Weaver-Bailey Contractors out of El Paso in White County, with a bid of $1.5 million.

Crews have been digging the dirt -- in between rainfall that leaves soggy ground in its wake -- and leveling the area in preparation for concrete work when the weather warms up, Anthony said.

Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said the current hangar space is at capacity, with a waiting list of 31 aircraft owners wanting parking spaces at the airport.

"This work will certainly help us achieve our current desire to add more T-hangars," Castleberry said. "It's just a matter of supply and demand. The demand is there, and we just need to supply it."

T-hangars are in the shape of the letter T to accommodate the shape of the plane. The hangar is narrower where the tail section of the plane is stored.

The FAA grant only funds the dirt work and concrete; it does not pay for the actual construction of the hangars. The FAA will pick up 90% of the cost while the airport picks up the remaining 10%.

Anthony said that after the first T-hangar is completed by the end of next year, two more expansions, each one built off the back of the previous one, are planned to add a total of 36 extra spaces over the next several years.

"The blue area is Phase 2 and will be done in 2024," Anthony said, pointing to a color reproduction of architectural drawings.

The Conway Municipal Airport at Cantrell Field was built in 2014 on a 431-acre site 10 miles southwest of Conway's city center. The original Cantrell Field airport, which was located near downtown, closed Jan. 31, 2015.

The new airport operates a full Phillips 66 fuel service and a 24-hour self-serve option, as well as ground service and a 6,300-square-foot main complex with a flight-training classroom, a conference room, and a pilot's lounge with bathrooms, shower, sleeping space, vending machines, weather computers and free Wi-Fi.

The airport's annual operating budget of about $1.1 million is fully self-sustained. Each hangar rents for $215 per month. The airport's larger hangars, for housing several corporate jets, are located on the north end of the airfield and rent for $700 per month.

"The hangar rent is where we really get our money," Anthony said. "With fuel, you just never know how you're going to do."

The money for the proposed future capital improvements are to come from banking the $150,000 annual federal Airport Improvement Program payout each year for four years, as well as seeking other federal grants and state monies.

Anthony said she hopes to also extend the 5,500-foot concrete runway to about 6,000 feet. She also has plans of having an aircraft maintenance facility on the property and of seeing more developments, such as restaurants, build up around the airport property.

"Right now, pilots have to take their planes to Texas to get fixed," she said.

Castleberry said the airport has a lot of "really engaged pilots who really care" about the airport.

"We're always looking for ways to improve. It's a busy place for a small airport," Castleberry said. "We've got new management in Michelle [Anthony], and she's full of new ideas and concepts. We're heading down the right road."

Metro on 12/03/2019

Print Headline: FAA grant to aid in Conway airport's 5-year effort

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