A longer runway to accommodate modern corporate jets is just one of the things Portage Municipal Airport needs to survive and thrive, according to a survey of airport users.
The Portage Airport Commission on Wednesday began analyzing the survey’s findings, and pondering what, if anything, can be done to address the concerns raised given that the airport is surrounded by development, with little or no room to grow.
Marcus Watson, who’s spearheading the study, said 64 people responded to the online survey, and they had plenty to say.
“This helps us validate the existing situation at the airport,” said Watson, project manager for the St. Paul, Minnesota-based architectural firm TKDA, the firm charged with the two-year effort to create a master plan for the airport.
It came as no surprise to the commission that runway length was an issue.
The airport’s runways – a 3,768-foot primary runway and a 2,559-foot crosswind runway – are too short to accommodate most corporate jets, although the survey showed the primary runway is long enough to accommodate about 90 percent of the airport’s current users.
But the need that survey respondents named most commonly was “improved visual aids,” a need mentioned by 79 percent of those who took the survey.
A little more than half the respondents, 54 percent, mentioned the need for a longer runway. Other commonly mentioned needs included:
- Improved obstacle clearance, 72 percent
- Better crosswind runway, 69 percent
- Improved terminal building, 67 percent
- Improved instrument approach minimums, 64 percent
“Existing deficiencies at the airport facility that currently limit the use of Portage… included runway length and obstacles, repair facility and the availability of a client meeting room at the terminal building,” the survey report said. “These deficiencies led to 29 percent of users using Baraboo-Wisconsin Dells Regional and Dane County Regional Airport (Madison) as alternatives to Portage to conduct business.”
Another issue that cropped up among survey respondents was the lack of vehicle rental services near the Portage airport.
“Get rental cars,” wrote one respondent. “Unless I am getting picked up, I have to fly to (Baraboo-Wisconsin Dells) because they have car rental. Rental cars will make (Portage) much more attractive.”
The survey focused on people who currently use the airport in a variety of ways, including personal and recreational flying, corporate and business travel, flight training, agriculture and “other” uses, including police search and rescue and education.
The site also includes a survey aimed at business people and preliminary results show similar concerns.
Some of the needs mentioned by respondents to the business survey include runway length (one respondent asked for a runway at least 5,000 feet long), availability of repair services and rental vehicles, a terminal with a business meeting facility and availability of jet fuel.
Watson said the surveys are part of TKDA’s effort to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the 78-year-old airport, and to suggest options for its future.
Airport Commission member Bill Kutzke suggested it would be difficult, if not impossible, to bring the airport up to modern FAA standards, at least in its present location.
“If we look at current FAA standards, there’s no way this airport meets them,” he said. “This airport has warts on it, just like every airport we have ever flown into. We may have to live with the airport where it is, or close it.”
One of the questions the commission wrestled with Wednesday was how likely it would be for the airport to get variances from some of the federal requirements.
Mark Graczykowski of the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics said that might be possible in some cases.
“We have to verify first that it’s not meeting standards,” he said. “Then and only then can we seek waivers.”