(Update: Comments from airport manager, city Economic Development Director)
Just six years after its last planning update, continued growth at the Bend Municipal Airport means a revision that could bring a longer runway, control tower and more space for helicopters and other aviation uses.
The 420-acre city-owned airport east of Bend has been in operation for 75 years. Because it’s outside the city limits, Deschutes County works with the city on planning and land-use efforts.
The city of Bend is working to complete a new master plan update and an updated airport layout plan. The new plan details the need for a new runway, a runway extension, a control tower and 200 additional acres for aviation uses.
The Federal Aviation Administration reports that the airport’s 2018 operations of takeoff and landings exceeded the 2013 master plan expectations.
The Bend Municipal Airport is the third-busiest airport in the state, with takeoffs and landings totaling more than 150,000 operations. The data includes flight activity from the flight schools and AirLink, the critical care flight transportation service. According to officials, these activities provide a huge economic impact to the county, with yearly revenue estimated at $174 million.
In 2013, the city of Bend approved an airport master plan that included an airport layout plan, which was later adopted by Deschutes County. The plan outlined the need for an extension of Runway 16-34, a new helicopter aviation area and 90 acres occupied for aviation uses.
Carolyn Eagan, the city’s economic development director, said Tuesday the current runway is about 4,000 feet long. The adopted plan for the runway extension would add about 1,000 feet.
Eagan also said there are plans to develop a helicopter operations center, which would include a hangar specifically for helicopters.
The FAA invested millions of dollars between 2015 and 2019 to build the helicopter operations area at the airport due to the high amount of activity, including training by three flight schools and emergency services through AirLink.
Airport Manager Gary Judd tells NewsChannel 21 these new developments are crucial for improving the safety and efficiency of flight travel, both in the air and on the ground.
“The control tower would be our biggest safety enhancement,” Judd said. “It would provide just a little bit more oversight on pilots coming and going, and increase the overall safety of the airport.”
He said most of the people who use the airport for aviation purposes are business owners who fly in and out on their own time. The updates are expected to bring in more employment and economic growth. However, sources say these plans may take at least a decade to go from paper to activity on the ground (and in the air).