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Smooth Skies & Runways

September 17, 2012, 10:00 PM by David Brown

Smooth Skies & Runways

After being closed four out of the past five weekends, the Sioux Falls Regional Airport is open once again. Runway renovations are finally complete and travelers won't have to worry about any construction-related closures for a long time.

"Everything went very, very well. As well as we could've hoped," Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier said.

It may not look different but the runways are ready for air traffic to takeoff.

"For the average traveler, it's not really something they're going to notice. For a pilot, they definitely would notice," Letellier said.

Letellier says it's a relief to have the more than $7 million runway project done. While most construction projects can be completed without airport closures, Letellier says these improvements affected both major runways.

"Because of where this location was, right in the center of both runways, it was a situation where we had to close both," Letellier said.

For the last two weekends in August and the second and third weekends of September, there was no turbulence of any kind around the airport. But Letellier says they wanted to make sure Labor Day travelers had Sioux Falls as an option.

"It's not a busy holiday travel period, but certainly, we didn't want to impact people that did have plans for travel around that holiday. So, we purposely scheduled around that," Letellier said.

The strategy to schedule during the late summer and early fall was no coincidence. Airport officials had the closure dates picked out nearly a year in advance.

"We notified all the airlines ten months ago that these were the weekends, these were the times, please take your flights out of availability," Letellier said.

And while the airport did its best to warn travelers, Letellier knows some were still caught off guard.

"Certainly, we found out we did disrupt a lot of people's plans. Folks that were travelling in for the marathon were disrupted and had to make other arrangements. So, even though everybody's been very understanding for the work that had to be done, we certainly realize we did impact quite a few people," Letellier said.

The airlines that fly out of Sioux Falls were able to save on expenses such as fuel and staffing during the closures so their bottom lines won't be affected as much. But Letellier admits there are areas of the airport itself that lost out during the renovations.

"With taking out a full week of travel, we're about 20 percent down," Letellier said. "We'll probably see the same thing in September. Certainly, there's revenue with the restaurants and the parking and the gift shops, there's certainly some lost revenue for those folks."

But now that the turbulence on the ground is out of the way, it'll be a while before travelers have to deal with another road problem on their way to the skies.

"The runway we have, it's back; it's at full strength. It could be good for 40 to 50 years," Letellier said.

The airport will have to work on its primary runway at some point in the next five or six years. However, even when that's closed, traffic will be re-routed to the other runway. That means the airport won't have to shut down at any point.

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