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County to invest in better airport

July 21, 2014

An international businessman lands in this private Boeing 737 at the Bishop Airport. Inyo County is embarking on a planning project that will identify a number of improvements that can be made to attract more commercial and private flights into and out of the Bishop Airport. Among the recommended improvements are wider runways, better lighting and improvements to the terminal building. Photo by Ken Babione

Inyo County is moving forward with a plan for improving Bishop Airport.
Last week, county Public Works and a new contractor briefted the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and Northern Inyo Airport Advisory Committee on efforts to create a plan for the airport that will improve services and make the facility more desirable for commercial and private pilots.
In April of 2011, years of hard work between Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power came to fruition with the county obtaining an easement in perpetuity for all airport related use at the Bishop Airport from the City of Los Angeles.
The easement gave Inyo County property rights and permission to handle all improvements and upgrades at the airport. This easement, in turn, paved the way for the county to apply for Federal Aviation Administration grant funding to implement the strategies laid out in the 2002 Bishop Airport Master Plan.
“The Bishop Airport is a vital part of the community that receives daily flights, both public and private,” and a plan for improvements will help ensure it remains so, a press release from the Public Works department states.
Originally constructed in 1929, the airport currently has flights delivering express goods and mail, flights for emergency medical situations, firefighting flights and private flights for pleasure, business travelers and airplane aficionados.
Today, 10 years after the Board of Supervisors adoption of the Bishop Airport Master Plan, the Bishop Airport is in need of infrastructure improvements, according to the county. With the new lease in hand, the county has begun the process of seeking available FAA grant funding.
On July 9, Inyo County staff briefed the Northern Inyo Airport Advisory Committee on recent developments regarding the Bishop Airport. Inyo County Public Works Director Clint Quilter announced that the county had received FAA grant funding to hire an expert airport consultant to complete an Airport Layout Plan that will prioritize airport needs and recommend solutions. This Bishop ALP would then be submitted to the FAA to seek funding for proposed upgrades.
Inyo County has hired Wadell Engineering Corporation, Airport Planners and Engineers located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Wadell Engineering Corporation, founded in 1974, has completed more than 450 successful aviation projects and has a 40-year relationship with the FAA. “Wadell uses their experience and expertise to develop plans that meet the FAA requirements and standards necessary for federal funding,” the press release states.
Bob Wadell, a registered civil engineer and certificated aircraft pilot with more than 40 years’ experience as an airport planner and engineer, will lead the planning and design projects for Inyo County.
At the July 9 Airport Advisory Committee meeting, Wadell described the initial stages of ALP development, reviewed the 2002 Master Plan, described the draft ALP process and opportunities for public input, and outlined a time frame for the ALP to be completed and submitted to the FAA.
Key components of the ALP will be to update the Bishop Airport’s inventory of facilities, to establish forecasts of demand and new facility requirements to meet FAA standards, to prepare a 20-year capital improvement program and to provide an updated narrative report.
The ALP will be completed by summer 2015.
Quilter said 90 percent of the funding for the plan was provided by the FAA and 4.5 percent was funded with a California State Aeronautics matching grant.
At the Airport Advisory meeting, Wadell and Quilter said there are several high-priority infrastructure needs at the Bishop Airport, using slides and photographs to illustrate their points.
First and foremost was rehabilitating runway and taxiway pavements. Additional needs are upgrading all airport lighting and signing, replacing the existing Visual Approach Slope Indicators with modern Precision Approach Path Indicators, adding Runway End Identifier Lights on all four runways, installing security fencing and restoring the full 150-foot width for the two longer instrument runways.
Quilter said less pressing needs include access roads and improvements to the terminal area.
In the next few months, Quilter explained to the NIAAC, Inyo County, with Wadell’s help, will be developing and presenting the Bishop Airport Layout Plan in public forums and settings, seeking community participation and input from local leaders and residents. “Any comments or concerns will help shape the ALP draft,” the press release states.
Quilter updated the Board of Supervisors on Airport Layout Plan and NIAAC workshop, telling local leaders that it will be an iterative process.
Formal presentations by Wadell Engineering and Inyo County are scheduled for Aug. 25 with Bishop City Council and at the Tuesday, Aug. 26 Inyo County Board of Supervisors meeting. There is also an evening community presentation set for Aug. 26 at Bishop City Hall.

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