Port granted $1.3 M for airport upgrades

Planes touch down on a realigned, and resurfaced, runway at Ken Jernstedt Airfield. File photo.

A new wave of development is coming to Ken Jernstedt Airfield.

The Port of Hood River, the airport’s owner, is set to receive $1,364,900 in grant funding from a state transportation commission.

The port’s “Aviation Technology and Emergency Response Center” made the list of 39 multi-stage transportation projects approved to dip into the Oregon Transportation Commission’s (OTC) funding pool. The list was released in mid-August.

A first push from OTC marks a set of upcoming investments from the port, private partners and state and federal grants that will lead to an estimated $7 million in improvements at the airport in south Hood River over the next several years.

Improvements to the airfield’s north ramp have taken up prominence in the port’s Airport Master Plan for more than 20 years, which calls for relocation of the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) building and other infrastructure upgrades on the south side of the airstrip.

The port’s new FBO, TacAero, is a private business partner that gives day-to-day operational support at the airport.

The state’s ConnectOregon grant will fund nearly 60 percent of the project’s first phase: site preparation, environmental studies, installing water and sewer utilities, grading and paving and buying new fuel tanks. It will also allow five new commercial hangars.

Phase two, funded by TacAero, will include construction of a new FBO building, a federally certified maintenance facility and training academy, complete with new training aircraft and full motion flight simulators.

Upcoming community benefits from the project include safety changes with traffic flow improvements and the relocation of the fuel tanks, enhanced facilities for testing and development of UAV (drone) technologies and new applications, improved airport facilities for pilots and visitors, meeting new demand created by the growth in aviation tourism, and an improved site for firefighting and emergency response personnel with temporary crew quarters.

The first two project phases are expected to be complete by September 2018. A third phase, 90 percent funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, will complete the upgrades to the north ramp called for in the Master Plan by the end of 2019.

“The Ken Jernstedt Airfield is an aviation jewel in Oregon. The new FBO will be a new ‘Front Door’ to the airport, accessible to all,” Port Executive Director Michael McElwee said in a written statement.

“The Port very much appreciates this funding commitment from the Oregon Transportation Commission and the Oregon Department of Aviation.”

McElwee attributed the funding in part to the growing recognition of Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) and the potential for the airfield to support other businesses, pilot training and emergency preparedness.

TacAero vice presidents Jeremy Young and Brian Prange helped in the ConnectOregon grant process.

“We know this is a big win for our airport. The airport can now more efficiently connect the community and emergency services,” Young said.

“We are excited to provide the community with a great facility to come and learn about aviation, enjoy a nice meal, and hopeful catch the ‘Pilot Bug.’”

For more information, contact the Port of Hood River at 541-386-1645 or via email to porthr@gorge.net for more information.

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