On solid ground
UND Aerospace thanks legislators for funding partial completion of major repairs to aircraft parking ramps at the airport
Kim Kenville is pragmatic when it comes to knowing what amenities draw private-sector donations.
Concrete slabs aren’t one of them.
Still, UND Aerospace had a major need right outside its Flight Operations Center, where its fleet of 100 fixed-wing and rotary aircraft park at the Grand Forks International Airport. The concrete slab was crumbling away, beaten hard by weather above and the poor alkali-soaked soil beneath. The situation spurred safety concerns and increased maintenance costs over time.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deemed the concrete issue a private matter and not eligible for federal assistance. And private donors certainly were not lining up to fork over money for the chance to etch their names in new pavement. So, Kenville, an airport management professor and member of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, assembled a team to seek other ways to pay for the repairs.
Eventually, the proposed $16 million project made its way to the North Dakota Legislature, which, with the stewardship of local legislators such Sen. Ray Holmberg, chair of the Appropriations Committee; Rep. Mark Sanford and Rep. Rich Becker; was partially funded to the tune of $6 million. After the governor included the project in his budget, state legislators asked UND Aerospace to see if the original request could be scaled back a bit, and it was. The approved initial funding, coupled with lower-than-expected project bids from the main contractor, Strata Corporation, allowed UND Aerospace to fix a major section of its concrete parking ramps over the summer and fall.
“This is one of the most enjoyable projects that I have ever done while employed at UND,” Kenville said. “I was able to use the knowledge that I have as an airport management faculty member, coupled with knowing the FAA rules and regulations and being a state aeronautics commissioner, to really help UND Aerospace.”
UND Aerospace took time recently to thank the North Dakota Legislature and representatives, such as Holmberg, Sanford and Becker, for their support.
There is still work to be done, however. The state funding allowed UND Aerospace to complete repairs to all of its “Charlie” ramp and a portion of its “Bravo” ramp. Plans are to seek as much as $4.8 million in additional funding in the next legislative biennium. That would provide enough money to complete Bravo ramp, which wraps around UND Flight Operations’ airport campus to the north on the runway side.
Kenville made it clear that other sources of funding would be welcomed, however: “We’ve never met donors who think pavement is cool, or want their names in the pavement, or want it named after them. If you know anyone like that, please let us know because we have a little bit more to do on the other side.”
UND Aerospace Dean Paul Lindseth lauded Kenville and her team, which included UND Director of Flight Operations Dick Schultz, UND Associate Director of Construction Management Brian Larson and UND alumnus Kyle Wanner of the State Aeronautics Commission, for making the project go smoothly and safely.
“My main concern was the safety of the project, and we were able to do this in a very safe manner in a very congested environment,” said Lindseth, referring to the vast number of student training flights that UND Aerospace routinely conducts.
The project work began in May and wrapped up on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Flight Operations Director Schultz added thanks to the project’s engineering consultant, Mead & Hunt; representatives of Strata Corporation; the local Airport Authority and the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower for allowing the project to commence and enabling UND Aerospace to keep operating unabated.
“It went great,” Schultz said. “We flew more hours this past summer than we did last summer, and we did it with the half the ramp space, and we did it safely. I think that’s a testament to our team.”