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Q&A: New Conway airport set for opening in August, 2014

Posted: January 19, 2013 - 3:23pm
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ERIC WHITE STAFF PHOTO  Members of the Airport Advisory Committee gathered for a Q&A with the Log Cabin Democrat. From left are Bill Adkisson, Bill Hegeman, City Engineer Ronnie Hall and Assistant to the Mayor Jack Bell. See thecabin.net for a slideshow of photos of the airport.
ERIC WHITE STAFF PHOTO Members of the Airport Advisory Committee gathered for a Q&A with the Log Cabin Democrat. From left are Bill Adkisson, Bill Hegeman, City Engineer Ronnie Hall and Assistant to the Mayor Jack Bell. See thecabin.net for a slideshow of photos of the airport.


See aerial photos of construction being done at new airport here.


Three members of the Airport Advisory Committee gathered Wednesday at City Hall to discuss the progress of the new Conway Airport.

They were Bill Hegeman, committee chairman; Bill Adkisson, chairman of the board of Conway Development Corp., and City Engineer Ronnie Hall.

Joining the question and answer session was Jack Bell, Assistant to the Mayor.

As a bonus, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor came to town on Thursday to talk about his involvement and get thanks for acquiring the initial $5.8 million in federal funds to get the project going.

While here, Pryor was asked to help with a new project, a $3.4 million Instrument Landing System (ILS).

Pryor told the committee he would “do all that I can do” to find funding for the system that would allow pilots to land in darkness and all weather.

It was explained that without ILS, some pilots would need to re-route to Little Rock or Searcy in certain conditions.

The advisory committee is relatively new, and this is what they recommended to the City Council when they were appointed.

Chairman Bill Hegeman: “The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the City take over the management of the new airport when it becomes operational by hiring a good manager who would report to the council.

“It was the feeling of the committee that this would give us

• the greatest control of all the factors relative to the operation of a new facility,

• provide the highest revenue stream,

• better control of investments in the new facility and

• better project the positive image that is desired in a general aviation airport.”

Other members of the advisory committee are Brad Teague, Steve Magie, Fletcher Smith, Harrell Clendenin, and Kevin Wish.

Hegeman said he is the only non-pilot on the committee.

Log Cabin Democrat: How long has a new airport been considered?

Bill Adkisson: There has been strong interest by the Conway Development Corp. since the early 1990s, and before that, the 1970s, when Conway was looking for a more suitable location. Ground was broken on April 22, 2011.

Ronnie Hall: The site in Lollie Bottoms was approved in 2000, followed by an extensive environmental study lasting almost four years and costing the city $250,000. It was eventually decided that waterfowl would not be the hazard once feared.

LCD: As Cantrell Field has been surrounded by a growing city, have steps been taken to avoid this fate with the new airport?

Hall: The city adopted FAA ordinances that prevent the airport from being hemmed in. An overlay district also includes height and size restrictions of nearby structures.

LCD: How long is the runway?

Hall: The runway is concrete, 11 inches deep, 70 feet wide, 7,000 feet long with 1,000 feet unpaved at either end with no obstructions. The depth of the concrete was increased from 9 1/2 inches to 11 inches at a cost of $250,000 to handle heavier business jets. Garver Engineering of Little Rock is assisting the city with design.

LCD: What’s the largest plane that will be able to land safely at the new airport?

Hall: A Gulfstream 5 is the largest business jet expected.

LCD: What cities were studied and flown by to determine best practices for Conway?

Adkisson: I’ve been able to fly around a bit to compare several sites, such as West Memphis, Rogers, Hot Springs, Monticello, Tunica and others. I’m impressed with some of their operations, and we took away some ideas for our project. One thing the committee learned was that the terminal need not be as large as they first thought. The airport will be important as an economic development tool, and the terminal will be the first place flying-in visitors to Conway will see.

Jack Bell: Preliminary plans for the terminal were drawn by out-of-town architects, but planning has been taken over by Conway architect Rik Sowell.

LCD: How do the pilots using the Conway airport now feel about the new airport?

Adkisson: The pilots love it. They’ve been involved in several surveys and have given a lot of input.

LCD: What is the name of the new airport?

Bell: Dennis F. Cantrell Field, named for the man who established the Conway Municipal Airport in 1939 and remained involved in the airport for more than 50 years.

LCD: When will the airport be completed?

Hall: Dedication is set for Aug. 14, 2014. Mark your calendars.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at becky.harris@thecabin.net and 505-1234. Staff writer Ricky Duke contributed to this story.)

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KittyDigitize 01/20/13 - 09:28 am

Where are the Lollie Bottoms in Conway?

jtcoll 01/20/13 - 10:23 am
Southwest Conway down by the

Southwest Conway down by the Arkansas River. Just think west on Dave Ward Drive past Wal Mart and then go left right before you get to the river bridge.

Igor Rabinowitz
Igor Rabinowitz 01/20/13 - 11:03 am

Can handle a Gulfstream 5 but doesn't have a precision instrument approach?


That, seriously, needs to be fixed. They can go with an ILS system, but it would cost a lot less and be more effective to go with a GPS -based precision approach.

Here's the thing: Big airplane comes in, big airplane needs fuel, a lot of fuel. Conway gets the tax revenue.

Big airplane goes to LR 'cause no way it's coming in to some place with no published approach, the tax money goes to LR.

That lack of revenue makes the economic justification for a big runway poor, kind of like having a (really nice) parking lot with no road going to it.

An ILS would be nice and all, but geez.

KittyDigitize 01/20/13 - 11:22 am

Most aviation packages have ILS capabilities installed and not GPS. I'm happy the size is capable of handling a GS-5. I would love to see an airport cafe like those that exist in many Midwestern airports. We've met some wonderful travelers passing through at airport cafes while living up north. It was nothing to take the plane over to the next state for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the airport cafe --enjoying new friends who traveled the same way around our country. If this same set up was installed here at Conway, the air traffic would grow as would the revenue. There is a world of small private plane travelers out there who do this type of social gathering weekly! Conway could set a precedence for Arkansas!

Igor Rabinowitz
Igor Rabinowitz 01/20/13 - 04:12 pm
All due respect, but...

The era of people flying out to the cafe for a $100 hamburger (as it's called) is coming to an end. Fuel and insurance costs continue to climb.

Plus, a guy getting $100 worth of fuel in a Cherokee as part of a fun flight to the cafe has a far smaller impact on Conway tax revenue than someone spending thousands on Fuel for their biz jet. In fact 20 hobby pilots getting fuel won't impact what two Gulfstream's a month would do.

Hobby flying's great and all -- and certainly had a place -- but biz aviation is what'll gen serious revenue.

Adding, the difference between millions for an ILS and the relatively low cost for a GPS, well, there you are. Best case would be to have both and then some, of course, but my point being to not have a precision approach to an airport set up to handle near-airliner business jets is pretty much silly. Conway needs a precision approach more than waiting for the funding for a particular type of precision approach. (That a proudly small-government guy is going after the funding, yeah, that's another story.)

Traffic will get here due to business applications, the pilots of which who won't use a cafe to influence the boss's decision to fly to Conway, but will fly to LR and drive in rather than take a Gulfstream-class biz jet into an airport with a non-precision approach. (History has proven this.)

We're talking Gulfstream going to LR or Conway here. Trying Conway, and then going to LR costs a lot of money in those things. Captain McPrudent (which any flight department head has to be in these times) would just file to LR, leave a half-hour early, and not sweat the fuel burn ... unless Conway has a precision approach.

Restating, leaving, say, Teteboro and flying to LR is about the same fuel burn as Teteboro to Conway. But if you've got to try Conway (which, I hear, has a lovely cafe), and not able to make it in due to weather, then climb back out and fly to LR and get sequenced in with its traffic, now you're spending some money.

And to be clear, all due respect. Flying's fun and people having fun flying are where the Captains of corporate jets come from. But I'm talking the short game here.

(All: A precision approach gives one glideslope information; a non-precision approach, using radio beacons or whatever, is by definition not as viable when the clouds are close to the ground. Both work well, but a non precision without glideslope info does not allow the plane to descend as close to the ground as a precision.)

Opie 01/21/13 - 07:29 am
Instrument Approaches

Just for clarification from an interested pilot. I have been told by members of the Airport Commission The New Airport WILL have GPS approaches at least to one runway, hopefully both. The plan is to have an ILS Approach in addition for those aircraft not presently equiped with GPS/LPV WAAS technology, which is an expensive conversion to each aircraft. Virtually all existing aircraft of any size already have the capability to fly an ILS Approach. Too bad that wasn't made clear in the article. The ILS is what the airlines fly. That should tell us something as well as the term "Precision" for the ILS and "Non-Precision" for the GPS. The Commissioners have got the right idea, glad to see them pursuing the ILS.

Igor Rabinowitz
Igor Rabinowitz 01/21/13 - 08:22 am
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