July 11, 2008

Touch Down, Take Off: County Airport, Commissioners Celebrate New Runway

By Christine Stanley, Odessa American, Texas

Jul. 11--More than 10 years of planning for a bigger, better county airport runway has come to fruition.

County commissioners Barbara Graff and Armando Rodriguez, along with a host of airport personnel, celebrated Schlemeyer Field's newest runway with a ribbon cutting Friday.

Graff said the 6,200-foot, $5.5 million drag will be a key factor in attracting more business to the county, mainly because Schlemeyer can now accommodate corporate jets. Graff predicts this will be a big incentive for existing businesses and new ones who may be considering relocating to the area.

"Most (corporate pilots) would rather fly into a smaller airport," Graff said, adding that the process is a lot less involved than trying to land at Midland International Airport.

Runway project engineer Danny Winchester said the new runway's length will enable pilots to take on full fuel loads when they get ready to leave Schlemeyer. He said this will be an added reason for them to use the field and should help the county airport with fuel sales.

"A corporate pilot is real concerned about safety," Winchester said.

The Texas Department of Transportation's aviation division covered 90 percent of the $5.5 million it took to get the runway in place, with the county covering the other 10 percent.

"It's a beautiful runway," said TxDOT's Bijan Jamalabad. "It's a great asset to the community and county."

Jamalabad acknowledged that there were "a few bumps" in the road to get the runway completed but said that's normal for any project of this size.

Graff said there were some funding delays, and it took a while to acquire land that was needed outside the airport's boundaries.

Part of that land acquisition process involved moving the Odessa Texas Sheriff's Posse's headquarters to make room for the runway. But the posse didn't leave without a fight, filing a lawsuit that was eventually ruled in the county's favor.

"We had to work with the county to resolve that issue," Jamalabad said.

Graff said the airport has more than enough room to accommodate any aviation-related business that would like to make Schlemeyer its new home.


--15 to 20: Fuel stops a day.

--25 to 30: Flights a day.

--240: About how many days it took to construct the runway.

--$5.5 million: Total cost for new runway.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Odessa American, Texas

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