Chilton County Airport Authority receives $261,736 federal grant

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

The Chilton County Airport Authority has been awarded $261,736 in Federal Aviation Administration grant funding through its Airport Improvement Program.

This grant puts the airport one step closer to a 1,000 feet runway extension it has been working toward for years. This would give the airport a total of 5,000 feet of runway.

The airport authority is required to contribute $13,086 (5% of the grant total) in local funding toward the project. This will come out of the funding the airport receives from the county.

Billy Singleton, grant coordinator for the Chilton County Airport Authority, said the grant pays for 95% of the amount needed, and “there is no other grant anywhere that is that attractive as far as infrastructure.”

The grant will allow the airport authority to purchase more of the land that it needs to be able to complete the project.

“We not only need the space for the asphalt on the ground,” Singleton said. “We have to protect from that point 1,500 feet out for a safety zone. It is called a runway safety protection zone, it is a safety zone to make sure no obstructions are in the flight path.”

This requires the airport authority to purchase several connecting properties to keep towers or tall structures from being built. The airport authority has been purchasing property as grant funding is available since 2000. There are less than five properties remaining to be secured before the project can begin.

“We are very appreciative to Sen. (Richard) Shelby (appropriations committee) and the Federal Aviation Administration and ALDOT because otherwise there is no way that we could do this based on local funding,” Singleton said.

Funding for the Airport Improvement Program comes from a tax on airline tickets and jet fuel that is kept in the Aviation Trust Fund.

The hope is that the actual extension project will begin in 2024.

“It has been a long, long process to get to this point, and I am thrilled that hopefully I am going to see it,” Singleton said.

Having a longer runway will allow larger business jets that seat seven to 10 people to land.

“Their insurance requirements dictate that they have 5,000 feet available for takeoff and landings, so that has been the sole purpose to try to get it out to this point,” Singleton said.

Being able to handle business aircraft would make Chilton County more appealing to industries looking to expand and locate here.

It would also meet the requirements for an air ambulance to be able to land at the airport.

With more jets coming to the airport, Singleton said the facility would also have the additional revenue opportunity to sell jet fuel.

The Chilton County Airport Authority applies for federal grants through the Alabama Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division. Grants are applied for to fund projects listed in the master plan the Chilton County Airport Authority developed for the airport.

The day-to-day expenses of the airport are mostly paid through fuel sales and hangar leases to about 30 aircraft.