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Lanett Airport project continues

LANETT — A tremendous amount of work has been done over the past few months at the Lanett Municipal Airport.

That’s what can happen, said City of Lanett Planning & Development Director Tony Chandler, when the city has some significant federal aviation improvement funds and two companies like Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood and W.S. Newell & Sons doing  it.

It’s a massive project that involves moving an estimated two million cubic yards of dirt and bringing in 3,400 dump truck loads of sand-like material from a quarry in Wadley, Ala., to raise the new runway to a near-level position.

“It took 25 dump trucks going there from sunup till sundown to get it all here,” Chandler said.

Based in Montgomery, Newell & Sons does lots of construction projects all over the state and across the southeast. Last year, they were involved in the land clearing at the solar farm in LaFayette. They have some huge machines that go to their work sites, and it can be tricky to get them there.

“They can’t cross railroad tracks,” Chandler said. “We had to route them around them.”

This meant getting off I-85 at Cusseta and coming by way of the Kilpatrick Road to Cusseta Road and to the airport.

Project Superintendent Jerry Owens has been with Newell & Sons for 35 years and is dedicated to seeing that projects are done on time and under budget. There are times when he’s on the site 24 hours a day, working from daylight till dark and sleeping in a trailer near the airport hangar.

The airport project has been carried out in several phases. First was to get the funding. As much as 90 percent of it comes from the federal government. Having a powerful senator like Richard Shelby, who’s a big booster of airport projects, doesn’t hurt. He’s been instrumental in getting between four and five million dollars to fund it.

The next phase to get the nearby land needed to build a larger landing strip. The site has  grown from 104 acres to 356 acres through this. Some large stands of timber then had to be cut.

“We had to clear cut over 100 acres to do this,” Chandler said. “Some of it was pulp wood, some was pole timber and some it was hardwood. It took us eight months to do it, and the money we made from timber sales went into the airport project.”

The new runway will be approximately 4,400 feet in length. This is a significant upgrade over the old landing area, which was around 3,300 feet in length. Most of the old runway will be kept as a taxiway for planes that are taking off or landing.

Many tons of dirt have been put down to form a solid base for the new runway, which will run from the southeast to the northeast. Dirt is not a problem.

“We had more of that than we needed,” Chandler said.

The northeast end of the runway had to come up some 27 feet and the southwest side had to come up around 17 feet.

Once the 4,400-foot base was completed, the next phase was to put in the sand-like material that was brought in from Wadley.

The quarry is in business mainly to provide ballast material for railroads, but they can crush stone into powder-like material from special projects such as airport construction.

It took around 3,400 truckloads of this material to have enough to be applied three feet thick over 4,400 feet. An estimated eight-and-a-half inches of crushed stone will be going on top of this. An asphalt sealant will then be applied.

“That will complete that phase of the project,” Chandler said. “It will have to set for two months. We will then seek bids for Phase II of the project, which will be asphalt paving. When that’s done, the new runway will be striped and lighted.”

The old hangar at the airport is being used to store city equipment.

“We will build a new terminal,” Chandler said. “It will be closer to the runway fueling area.”

Like most airports, Lanett provides fuel 24 hours a day. A pilot can land, use a credit card to fuel his plane and then take off.

“Goodwin, Mills & Cawood and W.S. Newell are two great companies to do work for you,” Chandler said. “They really know what they are doing.”

GM&C is the project designer and engineering consultant. Newell is the company doing all the heavy work.

Chandler said he enjoyed taking  his five-year-old son out to the airport on a Sunday. “They had all their equipment lined up on the old runway,” he said. “I got my son to stand next to one of the big tires on one of their big machines. It must have been eight foot tall. My son told me, ‘Daddy, I didn’t know they made tires that big!’”