Pavement ‘facelift’ and land acquisition have Siler City’s airport primed for new heights

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/9/20

SILER CITY — Richard McCraw, the manager of the Siler City Municipal Airport, described his facility as a crucial “first impression” for executives visiting the town and Chatham County at …

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Pavement ‘facelift’ and land acquisition have Siler City’s airport primed for new heights

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SILER CITY — Richard McCraw, the manager of the Siler City Municipal Airport, described his facility as a crucial “first impression” for executives visiting the town and Chatham County at large.

“And when things are kind of older, we don’t like that,” he said. “We want everything nice and fresh.”

That was the logic behind the airport’s most recent renovation, a $288,600 “facelift” of its land-side pavement completed this past spring with primarily federal funding.

Most notably, construction workers removed the top two inches of decades-old asphalt and applied a fresh layer on the main entrance road, the two parking lots and the connector taxi lane, which runs from airport’s ramp to its corporate hangars.

They also spruced up other areas of deteriorating asphalt, re-painted pavement markings such as parking spaces and added sleeker, more modern signage around the terminal building.

“It’ll keep people where they’re supposed to be,” McCraw said, laughing.

April’s renovations added to lengthy list of improvements at the publicly owned airport over the last five years. In November 2015, the airport completed a $2.7 million structural upgrade of its runway, taxiway and apron (where planes park, load and unload).

And under the guidance of a 20-year airport layout plan, approved by the N.C. Dept. of Transportation’s Division of Aviation in May 2017, the airport also added a helicopter pad (November 2019) and overhauled its lighting system with a more efficient LED equipment (May 2019).

“It’s been great,” McCraw said. “People comment about how nice the runway is, how nice the ramp area is, everything. I’m super excited to see all this stuff going on.”

The publicly-owned Siler City Municipal Airport has seen multiple renovations over the last five years.

And a recent purchase by the town of Siler City has him just as excited for the future.

Although it was a “wild ride” heavy on red tape and paperwork, the town recently closed on a combined five acres of land surrounding the airport. With that property now in its possession, McCraw said there’s a golden opportunity to improve the airport further.

As of now, planes can’t fly an approach into the airport and land at nighttime or during adverse weather, because of tall trees near the landing strip. With those trees cut down, McCraw said, the airport would be fine, under FAA regulations, to expand when it can take in planes.

“And that’s a big consideration for corporations and for people that want to travel to the area: being able to get in and get out, regardless of the weather (or time),” he said. “It’s going be a big boost for us.”

The town and airport are shooting to complete those land renovations by the end of the year. Further down the line, the Siler City Municipal Airport could also extend the length of its runway and add a parallel taxiway, which will allow planes to get directly to the terminal without backtracking.

“That way we can get larger, heavier jets in,” McCraw said. “We’d kind of expand the area from which people can travel here,” including the West Coast.

The runway and taxiways projects are long-term, and conversations have been initial. But to quantify their impact, McCraw pointed a January 2019 economic impact brochure from the NCDOT Division of Aviation.

Produced by N.C. State’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education, it reported North Carolina’s 72 publicly owned airports contributed $52 billion annually to the state’s economy. Siler City Municipal Airport’s economic output was over $6 million, the report said.

Siler City Municipal Airport manager Richard McCraw said this spring's renovations had him and his staff 'super excited.'

McCraw, speaking hypothetically, imagined a further boost from the airport’s future projects. If a company was looking to expand into Siler City, its executives could fly directly into the municipal airport, avoiding the TSA check and hour-long drive from Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

“Versus here, they can just fly into Siler City, go to a meeting five minutes away for an hour, jump back in the jet and go to the next place,” McCraw said. “They can cover five or six meetings in a day. If you go into RDU, you’re wasting half your day just dealing with that. So, I mean, it’s huge.”

As a three-year employee, McCraw said he’s loved the steady stream of improvements to the facility, funded primarily through federal and state grants, such as the NCDOT’s Strategic Transportation Investments.

And the pavement overhaul in April and recent land acquisition have only added to a rolling upgrade McCraw described as “all positive” for the facility just three miles from downtown Siler City.

“There’s money going into the airport,” he added, “but the area sees a huge benefit from it."

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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