Starting Thursday, equipment will be turned on at Lawrence Municipal Airport that will help pilots land in bad weather.
A $1.58 million Instrument Landing System that was installed at the airport last year has been flight-tested and given the go-ahead by the Federal Aviation Administration, said Rod Bremby, assistant city manager.
Bremby said when the FAA flips the switch on Thursday, planes will be able to make an instrument landing approach on Runway 33, the airport's 5,002-foot northwest-southeast runway. The airport is northeast of the city on U.S. 24-40 Highway.
"Being able to make an instrument approach means more planes will be able to land in inclement weather when the cloud ceiling is down to 200 feet and when they can see the approach lighting indicators from three-quarters of a mile out," Bremby said.
IN THE PAST, most aircraft could not land at the airport if the cloud ceiling was less than about 600 feet, he said.
The ILS includes several pieces of computerized equipment, runway markers and an approach runway lighting system to assist pilots in making safe landings in less-than-perfect conditions.
The ILS project was funded with a $1.42 million federal grant. The city's contribution to the project was $158,000.
The airport's new ILS will be listed in an FAA directory of airports that are outfitted with such systems. There are about a dozen cities in Kansas with such systems, including Salina and Hutchinson, Bremby said.
The new equipment opens more doors to the airport for larger air traffic and can increase economic development in the city, Bremby said.
He said more twin-engine jets should be able to use the airport as an alternative to airports in the Kansas City area and in Topeka.
"We shouldn't see any large craft, but should see mid-sized executive craft," he said. "Instead of flying over to Topeka and taking a car or a bus over to Lawrence, we'll see those fly straight in."
OTHER PROJECTS still in the works at the airport are runway and lighting improvements and a 24-hour weather monitoring system.
The runway project, which will begin in the spring, covers improvements in both of the runways at the airport and replacement lighting for one. Federal funds will pay for 90 percent of the $524,600 project, with the city paying 10 percent.
Both runways will be strengthened by sealing cracks. Lighting on the shorter runway, which is 3,901 feet long, also will be replaced.
The third airport project is a $75,000 to $100,000 Automated Surface Observation System, which will provide 24-hour weather information to aircraft and to the National Weather Service.
The system would automatically broadcast continuous information on temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and other weather factors.
Lloyd Hetrick, airport manager, said the equipment was installed about a month ago and is being tested by the National Weather Service.
Hetrick said he was told the testing process could take between six months and a year.