Rickenbacker to invest federal funds

posted on 2nd October 2019
Rickenbacker to invest federal funds

Ohio’s Rickenbacker International Airport, a specialised cargo gateway, is to receive US$15 million from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport improvements. It plans to spend the money wisely

The $15 million that Rickenbacker is expecting is to be used by the airport operator – the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, or CRAA, which also operates the John Glenn International and Bolton Field gateways – for various infrastructure improvements, including runway upgrades.

“The FAA grant and these improvements align with Rickenbacker’s growth strategies over the next two decades,” observes Joseph Nardone, president & CEO of the CRAA.

While the CRAA applied for the grant and the FAA approved it, other parties supported the airport operator’s bid. And, says Nardone, “We are grateful to our Ohio congressional delegation and US secretary of transportation Elaine Chao for recognising Rickenbacker’s economic importance to the region and its critical role in international commerce.”

Ohio Congressman Steven Stivers adds: “Infrastructure is the shot in the arm our economy needs to continue its growth, and this investment in central Ohio is no exception.”

Pointing to the fact that while Rickenbacker is best known for its cargo operations, it also offers services for general aviation, business aviation and military aircraft, Stivers notes: “Rickenbacker is a critical component of our community for tourism and business, and maintaining [the airport’s] facilities is in everyone’s best interest.

“I’m glad to see that the FAA understands that and is committed to fulfilling the full grant amount that was requested for these crucial repairs.”

The runway improvements are actually projected to cost in the region of $33.5 million, the CRAA confirms, a total to which the $15 million will contribute. Involving both the design and construction phases, the upgrade project is set to incorporate:

  • Relocating/replacing runway lighting
  • Relocating/replacing navigational aids
  • Relocating/replacing directional signage
  • Improving taxiway configurations
  • Widening blast pads

Meeting the needs of rapid traffic growth

These upgrades will support the airport’s future growth. The CRAA has forecast that there will be a tenfold increase in cargo activity at the logistics hub over the next 20 years, that prediction having been made as part of the recent update of the airport’s master plan.

The reasons for that rapid growth are varied, says Angie Tabor, senior manager, marketing & communications at the CRAA, explaining: “The industry itself is expected to grow and we have the capacity to serve that growth – growth in the regional economy, growth in e-commerce, etc.”

No expansion of Rickenbacker’s land footprint is required by the upgrade programme, with all the projected growth accommodated on current airport property. But the airport will be further developed “as demand warrants”, Tabor says, adding: “We will collaborate with public, private and government stakeholders to fund the development. Long-term development is projected to include developing another 1.35 million square feet of air cargo facilities and airfield improvements.”

Rickenbacker is among the American airports to benefit from the US Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that made available an additional $1.5 billion of supplemental Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding. This budget deal was signed into law in February 2018.

The airport is situated within a single day’s drive of nearly half of the US population and one-third of Canada’s population. Major cargo carriers such as AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), Cargolux, Cathay Pacific Cargo, China Airlines Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo and Etihad Cargo all use the gateway, while express service providers FedEx and UPS are also on site to provide domestic deliveries.

“Thanks to its unparalleled access to consumers, as well as being one of the world’s few cargo-dedicated airports, Rickenbacker will serve as a growing facilitator of economic growth for the companies that tap into its competitive advantages,” Tabor asserts.

FAA funding through the AIP

Rickenbacker is one of numerous US airports that will benefit from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding as part of the nation’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

Back in June, US Department of Transportation secretary Elaine Chao announced that the FAA would award US$840 million in airport infrastructure grants, the first allotment of the total $3.18 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding for airports across the US.

“This significant investment in airport improvements will fund construction and rehabilitation projects that will help maintain high levels of safety in US aviation,” she said.

The 432 grants will fund infrastructure projects at 381 airports around the country. Selected projects include runway reconstruction and rehabilitation, construction of fire-fighting facilities, and the maintenance of taxiways, aprons and terminals.

The construction and equipment supported by this funding will increase the airports’ safety, emergency response capabilities and capacity, and could support further economic growth and development within each airport’s region, the FAA notes.

Airport infrastructure in the US encompasses an impressive 3,332 airports and 5,000 paved runways.

Airports can receive a certain amount of AIP entitlement funding each year based on activity levels and project needs. If their capital project needs exceed their available entitlement funds, the FAA can supplement their entitlements with discretionary funding.