Although unexpected cost increases and scheduling setbacks have delayed by a year the installment of several improvements at the Lawrence Municipal Airport, officials are optimistic that the systems will be up and running by the end of 1992.
"I'm very optimistic," said Assistant City Manager Rod Bremby, who has been working with planners and contractors for the installation of improvements that eventually will make the airport safer and more accessable. The airport is located northeast of the city on U.S. Highway 24-40.
The three projects, part of about $2 million in federal grants allocated to the city in 1990 and 1991, include an Instrument Landing System (ILS), runway and lighting improvments, and a 24-hour weather monitoring system.
City officials and aviation enthusiasts last spring were hoping all three projects could be completed by 1991, but cost increases and delays in construction schedules have left the airport without the new improvements so far.
Bremby said the ILS system, which would enable pilots to land safely at the airport with a lower cloud ceiling, has not yet been installed because of unexpected cost increases for the equipment and because the city still is trying to purchase land adjacent to the airport necessary for the improvments.
In addition, the city is waiting to receive equipment for the system from an ILS manufacturer.
He also said the city had to wait several months before receiving approval from a handful of government regulatory agencies to place a runway lighting tower on a portion of the airport's land designated as wetlands.
Bremby said that a $1.4 million Federal Aviation Administration grant for the ILS was based the anticipated cost of the system.
When the cost went up, the grant had to be reformulated, he said.
Under the ILS grant, the federal government will pay for 90 percent of the $1.5 million project and the city will pay the remaining 10 percent.
The ILS will enable pilots to land safely at the airport with the cloud ceiling as low as 200 feet. Currently, most aircraft cannot land at the airport if the ceiling is less than about 750 feet.
The system will include several pieces of computerized equipment, runway markers and an approach runway lighting system to assist pilots in landing safely.
The approach runway lighting system will include an "outer" runway marker that has been installed 6 miles southeast of the airport, Bremby said.
The marker, located at about 2 miles south of Kansas Highway 10 on Douglas County Road 1200N, is alligned with the longer of the airport's two runways. It will act as a beacon, helping pilots guide their planes to the center of the runway when landing, he said.
The marker is composed of a 6-foot antenna and a small utility building containing electronic equipment.
A second, "inner" runway marker also will be built as part of the ILS system. The inner marker would be built on land just southeast of the airport about 2,000 feet from the end of the long runway and alligned with the "outer" marker.
The city still is negotiating terms for purchase of the land where the outer marker and its equipment would be built from two private owners, Bremby said.
He said if no "snags" develop in the land purchase, the ILS system could be ready for FAA testing in April.
However, Bremby said, "There's no telling how long it will take them," to certify the ILS system.
The second project that city officials hope will be completed by the end of the year are improvments for both runways and replacement lighting for one of the runways.
That project, undergoing an engineering study, probably will be done this spring or summer, he said. Ninty percent of the $524,600 runway improvements and replacement lighting project will be paid by the federal government, while the city will pay 10 percent.
The airport has a north-south runway of 3,900 feet by 75 feet and a northwest-southeast runway of 5,000 feet by 100 feet.
The city plans to strengthen both runways by sealing cracks. Also, lighting on the shorter runway will be replaced, he said.
The third project is a $75,000 to $100,000 Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS), which will provide 24-hour weather information to aircraft and the National Weather Service, and enable the arrival of small commercial planes that require such information to land.
The system would automatically broadcast continuous information on temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and other weather factors.
Bremby said site preparation for the installation of the ASOS is underway.
ASOS installation for Lawrence should take place in May, Bremby said.
He said the system, which also was to have been installed by 1991, has been delayed because the weather service is installing 65 such systems at airports around the country.
The cost of the ASOS will be paid entirely by FAA and the weather service, which also will maintain the system without cost to the city.
In accordance with the airport's master plan, the city also hopes to lengthen the 5,000-foot runway by 500 feet in the next few years, Bremby said.
Such an extension would allow aircraft under 60,000 pounds with approach speeds of 140 knots or less to land.
Currently, only aircraft with a weight under 30,000 pounds with approach speeds of abour 120 knots or less can land at the airport.
Lloyd Hetrick, air services manager at the airport, said air traffic has slightly increased during the last year.
Although no one keeps records of the number of annual takeoffs and landings at the airport, Hetrick said that more than 40 aircraft may use the airport on a given day.
"It just depends on the weather and what's going on," he said.
He said airport traffic would increase when the ILS system goes on line.
"Once the ILS goes in, it will make a lot of difference, there's no doubt about that," he said.
"All we're certain of is that there will be an increase in traffic. We're not certain how much," Bremby said.