Saturday, April 23, 2005

Construction Season at PSM

What follows is a short article that I wrote for the local Air Traffic Control Tower news letter entitled "View from the Piscatiqua"

Airport Construction Season is Here!

Here in New England we talk a lot about our change of seasons. We are lucky to have four distinct seasons, each with its own special character. It is not hard to find beauty in each of our four seasons, but sometimes one can over stay its welcome. Winter has finally picked up and moved to its summer home south of the equator, and spring has joined us for a few months, promising warmer weather, green leaves, spring flowers and of course some excellent flying weather. The world seems to be coming to life all around us, and we look to the months ahead with excitement and anticipation. Change is good.

New England airports have two “seasons:” snow season, and construction season. During an airport’s snow season; as in nature, growth comes to a stand still. The airport staff is constantly doing battle with Mother Nature. All the airport’s resources are dedicated to that task. When they are not battling the winter storms, the airport staff is cleaning up from the last battle and preparing for the next.

With the coming of spring and “construction season” the focus shifts to repairing the damage done during our skirmishes with Mother Nature, and the ravages of time. We too look to the months ahead with excitement and anticipation, for now all the airport resources can be directed toward progress and growth. Yes things are coming to life here at Pease Airport as well.

Our airport is in the middle of a transition period in its life, sort of a midlife crisis if you will. Our proud Cold War veteran has worn the uniform of the Strategic Air Command for more than fifty years. Over those fifty plus years it has seen many changes and developed a few health problems.

Pease has developed a sort of cancer in its vast concrete aprons. We call this concrete “cancer” Alkali Silica Reaction, or ASR for short. This cancer causes the concrete to swell and degrade rapidly. Thankfully this cancer was diagnosed in time and is treatable. It must first be isolated and then removed entirely.

We first started treating our airport’s health problem by isolating this cancer. Cutting relief strips, or expansion joints in the concrete. These are the asphalt strips you can see cutting our vast concrete apron into sections.

This year we are continuing this process by removing a few rows of concrete along the east side of Taxiway Alpha, in what is referred to as the Taxiway Object Free Area. This will necessitate several taxiway closures and some creative detours to keep traffic flowing during the construction project.

Please check your NOTAMs frequently and remain on centerline when traveling around construction areas. These areas can be confusing at times but that little “yellow brick road,” we call taxiway centerline, will always keep you out of trouble. There will also be green centerline reflectors and blue reflective flex-stakes along taxiway edges to help guide you along your way.

While we are addressing the airport’s “health problems” we will also be helping the airport with the other part of its midlife crisis, its transition into civilian life. When Pease airport was built it was designed to be simple and efficient. One long runway next to one huge concrete apron, very simple. Pease was perfectly designed for its military life; clean, disciplined, no frills, no coloring outside the lines. Everyone at the airport knew exactly where they had to be and when they had to be there. Pease had one mission, the defense of her nation in uncertain times and everyone who used the airport was there to support that common mission.

Civilian life is a little more complicated. The airport must now fit several different missions simultaneously. Airlines, air cargo, corporate jets, and private aircraft must all coexist, with their military neighbors; Pease is and shall remain a proud citizen soldier. No two airport users have the same mission or goal in mind when they come to Pease. Their missions are as varied as the aircraft they fly and yet they must all be able to reach their destinations quickly and efficiently. To this end Pease must be re-engineered and compartmentalized.

As we remove and replace the concrete in Taxiway Alpha’s East Object Free Area, we will be installing new taxiways, complete with taxiway lighting and signs. These new taxiways will be separated by grass islands. This will serve two purposes. First it will isolate Taxiway A from the concrete apron, helping to stop the cancerous spread of ASR. Second it will provide better guidance for pilots as they arrive and aid them in finding their way to their intended destination. Pilots will be greeted by a more familiar taxiway layout instead of the current sea of concrete. Taxi instructions will be easier to give and more easily understood. A pilot need only tell the ground controller his destination and will be directed to a specific taxiway that will take them direct to their destination.

These changes will not only extend the life of our airport but also make Pease a more user-friendly airport. Change is good.

The airport is also now holding Quarterly Airport Users’ Group Meetings, which are open to all Pease Airport Users. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 22, 2005 at 1830 at Southern New Hampshire University on Corporate Drive. I look forward to seeing you all there.