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Chesterfield County Airport (FCI) is a general aviation airport, whose facility is categorized as a reliever airport to Richmond International Airport, according to the Categories and Aircraft Design Groups of National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems and Virginia Air Transportation System Plan. According to the data reported to the Virginia Department of Aviation in 2009, the airport serves as a base for 130 aircraft, and “accommodates approximately 82,500 civilian and military flight operations each year”.  Furthermore, FCI serves single-engine and twin-engine aircraft and corporate jet traffic and is classified as a C-II airport, according to the Airport Reference Code specifications of FAA AC 150/5300-13 of aircraft approach categories and approach speed. The critical aircraft is noted as the Gulfstream III, which has an approach speed of 136 knots, a wingspan of 78 feet, and maximum take-off speed of 68, 700 lbs.

The airport is located fourteen miles south of Richmond, Virginia, and can be accessed via State Route 10, known as an Ironbridge Road, through Whitepine Road, and through Airfield Drive. The intersection of Interstate 95 and State Route 288 adjacent to the airport in the Richmond Area is considered the principal access to FCI. Furthermore, the Interstate 95 highway extends 120 miles to the north and reaches Washington D.C. while Interstate 64 leads to Norfolk and Tidewater Virginia, which are located 90 miles southeast of the airport.

According to the latest estimates, the total economic impact of FCI reaches $ 17 million while $ 6,7 million is paid in annual wages through the provision of employment at the airport. The airport’s funding structure consists of 90% of federal funds, 8% of state funds, and 2% of local funds. In this respect, the main stakeholders of the airport are the Federal Aviation Administration, the Virginia Department of Aviation, and Chesterfield County, which provide funds for the airport bonds, public infrastructure, and development while capital projects are funded from surplus revenues.

In addition, considering the performance characteristics of the airport’s critical aircraft and conditions for the financing of the project, facilities requirements and environmental concerns should be analyzed to achieve the master plan’s objectives and standards of the FAA regulations.

Facilities Requirements, Environment Concerns and Gaining Control over Runway Protection Zone of the Long Range Master Plan

The Five-Member Board of Supervisors governs in the capacity of County Administration form on behalf of the County of Chesterfield, which owns and operates the airport. The day-to-day operations of the facility are overseen by the appointed full-time airport manager. An Advisory Board of Supervisors consists of six members, who are in charge of matters in relation to the airport capacity and operations.

FCI is categorized as a public use airport, considering 10,000 of annual aircraft operations, County governance, and Class E accommodation of jet traffic at low altitude. The airport was categorized as a Class E according to the Federal Aviation Regulation, whose specifications correspond to the FCI’s vertical extension to 18,00 feet of Mean Sea Level when it starts at 700 feet Above Ground Level.

The facilities available at the airport are located in the east side of FCI property. Terminal Building is the nearest location to taxiway “C” and serves as a gateway to the local community, as well as a transition point for pilots and passengers. 339 automobile parking spaces are located in the terminal area and include spaces for handicap and rental car services for public use. 6 T-hangar structures are located on the east of the terminal building area and include five 20-unit buildings and one 10-unit buildings. The north terminal area accommodates 85 tie-downs with 38 positioned apron areas. Furthermore, there are 12,000 gallons of jet fuel and 100LL of Avgas in the underground fuel farm.

Regardless the fact that, FCI meets the pollutant criteria to be recognized as the “attainment area” according to the specifications of National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the airport is located within the Virginia’s coastal zone, while aircraft noise from construction equipment is considered as a primary cause of incompatibility between the facility and surrounding communities. Furthermore, some lands surrounding airport property have the Day Night Average Sound Level of 65-75 decibels of the total sound energy during a 24hour period, which is incompatible under the FAA regulations. Although it was inspected that, there were no hazardous impacts from the fueling activities, the conditions of the underground storage tanks, which can be accessed from Airfield Drive can contaminate surface waters, soils and groundwater.

The following existing conditions impede sufficient performance of the airport’s operations:

1) Non-standard separation between Runway 15-33 and Taxiway “A”, which includes 375 feet while standards ARC C-II indicates 400 feet;

2) Insufficient runway length of 5,500 feet;

3) Inappropriate airfield maintenance and equipment building, while maintenance activities are carried out in a 16,625 hangar building by the Fixed Base Operators;

4) Absence of control over the Runway Protection Zone, between Runway 15 and Runway 33, which impedes the performance of clearing and maintenance of incompatible activities.

Although, the anticipated infrastructure development includes 20-year planning horizon, the design of the runway extension and mitigation of obstructions are programmed to be implemented by 2015.

Evaluation of the Future Implementation Plan

Data collection and data evaluation help identify that the growth of the annual operations is forecasted to exceed 14,000 aircraft operations compering to the existing 10,000 operations, which were calculated in 2008. In this respect, the airport’s airfield capacity will not be feasible to accommodate the critical aircraft Gulfstream III since the runway length of 5,500 feet does not allow sufficient taxiing operations of this aircraft within the existing runway centerline.

Therefore, qualitative methods help identify that 800 foot extension for the end of Runway 15 is needed because FAA regulations specify that the largest aircraft is expected  to operate on the parallel taxiway, and whenever runway is in use, the aircraft on that taxiway is required to hold a distance of 295 feet from the runway centerline. Furthermore, these methods help identify that separation between Runway 15-33 and Taxiway “A” should be increased on 25 feet, which will require a reduction of the taxiway to 35 feet, and a reduction of the Localizer Performance Visibility to lower than 0,75 miles. Data analysis methods help identify that if visibility approach is less than 3 miles, the airfield capacity can be improved with the help of instrument approach procedures.

In this respect, quantitative methods help justify that usage of the Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System will help to increase the lighting intensity to 40 watts if the visibility drops below 3 miles. Furthermore, these methods identified that relocation of the parallel taxiway and absence of Air Traffic Control Tower requires relocation of the localizer, Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI), and glide slope equipment (County of Chesterfield, 2012). Considering the fact that, the pilot’s eye percepts the ILS glide path indication lower that its actual setting, when PAPI and ILS are used together on the left side of the runway, they help provide the precise correlation between the two approach paths.

Additionally, quantitative methods help identify that rotating beacon should be replaced when approach procedures require reliable signals to the pilot with the help of localizer of the horizontal guidance at the touchdown point. Since each frequency of the localizer is paired with the vertical guidance of the glide slope, it should also be relocated to provide a three degree descent measurement.

Data analysis help identify that the established standards for maintenance activities, shortage of funds from Fixed Base Operators require expansion of the airfield maintenance building by 1,500 square feet, and provision of 2,000 square feet equipment building  to store future snow removals. Furthermore, considering the fact that, the fuel farm is located on the Whitepine Road, the facility requires construction of the alternative 24-hour fuel site since the airport owns and maintains buildings that perform fuel activities. The airport layout design for the Runway 15-33 extension can be seen in Appendix A.

In addition, regardless the fact that 95% of the $ 260,000 project expenses will be funded by the federal government institution, the runway extension from 5,500 feet to 6,300 feet will require intersection of 5, 5 acre of the privately owned property.  

Conclusion. SWOT Analysis of the Future Development of FCI

The structured planning of the future implementation plan helped identify favorable and unfavorable factors for achievement of the master plan objectives. The strengths of the project are based on the gaining of interest and control over the 1, 5 acre portion of the RPZ, which can be achieved with the proposed runway extension from 5,500 feet to 6,300 feet. In this respect, the airport has an opportunity to expand the existing building for airfield maintenance by 1,500 square foot and increase the space of the facility for additional location for the snow removal equipment by 2,000 square foot. Furthermore, the airport is projecting to apply up-to-date NAVAIDS such as MIALS and noise counters, due to the absence of the ATCT in the airport location, and owing to the necessity to mitigate noise issues. 

The weaknesses of the project are based on the necessity to reduce Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance visibility minima to lower than ¾ miles, due to the reduction of the taxiway to 35 feet, and relocation of the parallel taxiway. Furthermore, the threats of the project are based on the possibility of intersection of 5, 5 acre of the privately owned land, due to the need of the reconstruction of the Runway 15-33 extension.

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