With the completion of a $7.9 million taxiway project, the Hilton Head Island Airport is moving forward with its next project - extending its runway from 4,300 feet to 5,000 feet.
While he hopes the longer runway will make the airport more marketable to the airlines, Beaufort County Airports Director Jon Rembold said that wasn’t the project’s main driver.
“Our first priority is safety,” he said. “One of our goals is to offer more airline choices, but a plan this large in scope begins with ensuring that we are operating at optimum conditions with the safest foundation possible. Our work with the FAA allows us to do just that.”
The taxiway project, implemented in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration and the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, included relocating the 4,300-foot-long taxiway, tree removal and drainage components.
Taxiway A was relocated 100 feet to the east of the previous location. The project also included revising the general aviation parking area.
“It was the airport’s original taxiway,” Rembold said. “It complied with old standards, but did not meet new FAA standards for airport design.”
The taxiway project was the first of a series of projects planned for the Hilton Head Island Airport funded through a $13 million grant received from the FAA.
Just days after the taxiway project was complete, the airport launched the runway expansion, issuing a “notice to proceed” to its contractor to begin the first phase. The runway expansion is funded primarily by an $18.9 million grant from the FAA.
All safety compliance projects at the airport are funded 90 percent through the FAA, 5 percent through the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission and 5 percent through the airport.
No local taxpayer monies will be used, Rembold said.
“We had some opposition early on, but we involved the public from the beginning,” he said. “Everyone had the opportunity to see what we planned to do and to see that we did what we said we would.
“We have a very solid team with the FAA, the county and the airport. It was a transparent process from the beginning.”
The first phase and north end of the runway is expected to be complete by this fall, with the full runway finalized by mid-2018.
Rembold is hoping the longer runway will attract more airline service.
“We’re presently a single airline airport,” he said. “The runway expansion will allow us to accommodate more modern planes, which we anticipate will attract more airlines. More airlines will give our locals and visitors more choices and better prices.”
ABOUT THE AIRPORT
The Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) serves general aviation, airline charters and one commercial airline. American Airlines offers daily direct flights to and from Charlotte Douglas International.