Stillwater Regional Airport was constructed in 1945. Airport Director Gary Johnson says it is struggling to accommodate the technology and equipment of 2006.

The problems facing the airport were addressed to members of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and South West chapter of the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday during a joint meeting with Stillwater City commissioners and members of the Airport Authority.

After discovering Stillwater’s airport and it’s capital projects were not included in the OAC Capital Improvements Plan, Johnson sent a letter to Vic Byrd, director of the OAC, outlining the needs of the airport.

Johnson explained in the letter Stillwater Regional needs improvements to the asphalt runway, where the surface has begun to deteriorate. He notes cracking has become so serious it poses a safety and capacity issue.

He also includes the need for an extended terminal apron and completion of a parallel taxiway system to improve daily operations.

In his May 31 letter, Johnson noted the Stillwater facility had not received a major grant since October 2003.

Thursday, Johnson showed attendees a short video taken during Homecoming weekend, Oct. 28, where several jets and chartered flights waited at the airport for nearly two hours due to limited space on the runway and apron.

Johnson noted the OAC might have “misunderstood the serious nature of our problems and concerns,” adding he wasn’t looking to squabble with the agency but find a way to include Stillwater’s projects in OAC’s plan.

“Our industries and Oklahoma State University rely heavily on the airport to complete their mission,” said Johnson in his letter.

Members of these groups were represented at the meeting and were given the opportunity to explain to Bird the importance of the airport to their entity’s operation.

Terry Hunt, program manager for OSU Aviation, said the airport facility is part of the reason OSU has seen such success with its academic programs. And Marty Sargent, associate athletic director, said he has seen the airport grow since his initial employment by the university in 1984.

Sargent said in the past, coordinating travel for student athletes had been frustrating as airlines wouldn’t want to work with the airport prior to the runway extension in 2002. After the extension, he was relieved to provide safer and more reliable transportation for the students.

“Prior to 2001 we never thought anything could happen to us,” said Sargent, referring to the plane crash that killed 10 men in Colorado. The plane carrying members of the OSU basketball team crashed during a snowstorm due to maintenance issues.

With safety as the No. 1 priority, Sargent also indicated it is a matter of convenience for OSU and the rest of the Big 12 teams.

“The majority of the Big 12 teams want to fly into Stillwater,” he said.

Rick Estes spoke on behalf of Mercury Marine-Mercruiser noting how the airport played a role in the plant’s recently announced expansion.

Estes said the $13.5 million investment by the company was in part due to the convenience of the airport.

“The airport is key,” said Estes, noting Mercury relies on the airport for shipping critical orders.

Byrd said the OAC wanted to support Stillwater, but with limited resources and 100 federally designated airports in the state, each need is carefully assessed.

“When it comes down to it, there is an extremely finite amount of resources,” said Byrd.

He said the OAC commissioners would approve capital improvement projects in August, noting that it does change after it has been accepted.

He said the possibility of getting the airport’s apron improvement included was likely for next year, after a number of questions were addressed.

Byrd said sometimes the projects are further expedited by the OAC and FAA when organizations “belly up to the bar and put more money on the table.”

Byrd explained innovative financing, where partnerships are formed and locally fund a larger portion of projects, often grab the attention of the OAC.

Calvin Anthony, OSU regent, asked if there was any “magic threshold” where a local commitment made projects more likely to be funded by the OAC.

Byrd said they like to see a 60/40 split, where 40 percent of the support is provided by local entities.

Regarding the asphalt, Byrd offered in his July 24 response letter to have OAC fund a detailed pavement study to analyze the capacity, structural health and future of the pavement.

“Once the study is complete, the commission will provide (Stillwater Regional with) a copy of the study along with a recommended pavement rehabilitation technique and plan to address your concerns,” stated Byrd in his letter.

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