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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nashua airport receives federal grant

By DON HIMSEL
Staff Writer

NASHUA – The city’s airport has been awarded a grant that will cover the cost of planned projects aimed at positioning the municipal field for future growth.

The airport will receive $1,943,541 from a New Hampshire State Block Grant Program, covering two projects at the airport. Roughly $1.3 million will go to rehabilitate one of the taxiways and connected taxilanes while the remainder will go to update the Boire Field Airport Master Plan. ...

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NASHUA – The city’s airport has been awarded a grant that will cover the cost of planned projects aimed at positioning the municipal field for future growth.

The airport will receive $1,943,541 from a New Hampshire State Block Grant Program, covering two projects at the airport. Roughly $1.3 million will go to rehabilitate one of the taxiways and connected taxilanes while the remainder will go to update the Boire Field Airport Master Plan.

Boire Field airport manager Stephen Bourque said money is collected by airport users in the form of Passenger Facility Charges (PFC's) and fuel taxes.

“The update to our master plan is the first of those projects,” said Bourque on Thursday. “I describe it as a roadmap for future development.”

The airport began as 90 acres of turf landing area and one 2,000-foot runway. It was a federally funded Depression-era project and opened in 1934. It was named for U.S. Navy ensign Paul Boire, who was killed at age 22 during a training mission off Trinidad on March 23, 1943.

The airport, which is operated by the Nashua Airport Authority, has since grown to cover 396 acres and serves as a base for corporate jets helicopter services, private pilots and several supporting enterprises.

The property is ringed by other non-airport businesses. Nearby Daniel Webster College at one time offered students a comprehensive aviation program.

Bourque said Nashua’s airport is the state’s busiest, surpassing even Manchester Boston Regional Airport in regards to operations traffic. That means takeoffs and landings, as those count toward measuring airport activity. Bourque said that, last year, aircraft operations totaled 53,210. Manchester Boston Regional Airport had 51,805.

This year, he said, operations are up 13 percent.

Bourque said airport development will be discussed by a committee of volunteers.

“We’re looking for involvement from tenants, businesses and the city of Nashua as the major stakeholders,” he said.

“The projection might include additional capacity like aircraft parking or hangaring,” said Carol Niewola, the senior aviation planner at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation Bureau of Aeronautics. Several aspects of aircraft and airport operations will be in the spotlight, including aircraft approach patterns, environmental impact on the area and the latest requirements from the FAA to “make sure the airport remains within standards,” Niewola said.

“The master plan will offer flexibility,” she added. She specifically mentioned DWC, should the college reinvigorate their flight program.

“What does that mean for activity levels at the airport?” Niewola asked. “What might change at the facility because they are a user?”

Generally, she said, “We try to forecast the best we can.”

Bourque said the second project funded by the grant will be work on ramps, taxi lanes and taxiways.

“Some pavements are in dire need of rehabilitation and are way beyond their useful life,” he said. “They need to be reconstructed.”

The FAA, he said, requires a lifespan of 20 years for paved airport surfaces. Bourque said some of the pavement at Nashua’s facility is 40 years old.

Bourque said they will save money where available.

“Wherever we can, we will mill and overlay the pavement. It’s a little less expensive,” he said. “Some is too far gone and will need to be ripped up and start from scratch.”

The most recent upgrade resulted in a runway extension and navigational capabilities. That $25 million project wrapped up in 2012.

“Now we can focus on other areas that will help our tenants to hold the value of their investments and attract new tenants and customers,” Bourque said.

Industry-wise, Bourque said, “The forecasts have been somewhat dismal as far as aviation activity.”

“Business aviation has really been up and down – certainly since 2008,” he said.

According to Bourque, Nashua is bucking the trend.

“We’re actually seeing somewhat opposite of that here. We hope that continues,” he said. “Last year was a tough year for us. One of the markers we use is fuel flowage fees. There was not as much jet fuel sold last year. We’re seeing an increase this year.”

Once the governor and council sign off on the project, planning will move forward this fall. Construction isn’t expected to begin until spring.

“We’re trying to market the airport more than in the past,” he said. As a part of what Nashua has to offer, he said, “We have to have a first-class facility.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590, dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DonH.