Shutdown could lead to airport closure

Airport officials voice worry about meeting October deadline



Executive Director Tony Bean says he hopes federal funding returns to the FAA so work can resume on the runway Thursday at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport.

CARMEN JARAMILLO, Evergreen reporter

Effects of the partial government shutdown are being felt on the Palouse at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport (PMRA) where the opening of the new runway in October may be delayed the executive director at PMRA said this week.

While construction on the runway is still funded and continues on schedule, Executive Director Anthony Bean said, but the closure of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could significantly delay the scheduled Oct. 10 opening of the new runway.

“That date is in jeopardy right now potentially,” Bean said. “The longer the shutdown goes, the higher the risk that we won’t meet that date.”

In order to legally operate commercial flights on the new runway, Bean said, a set of approach procedures must be developed and tested by the FAA.

PMRA is scheduled for FAA flight tests of the new approach procedures in July. From there, PMRA plans to close at the beginning of September to transition to the new runway and reopen on Oct. 10.

If this deadline, called the publication date, is missed, it could mean the airport would have to continue operation with its current procedures. This could lead to another airport closure in 2020, Bean said. This is because the FAA works on a yearly cycle and PMRA will have missed its window for approval of the new runway.

“If you miss your publication date, you don’t just go into the next publication date, you go to the end of the line,” he said.  “The end of the line could be two years. When you’re talking a $140 million project, that’s significant.”

PMRA will not know the true impacts on the construction timeline, Bean said, until the government reopens. National news outlets are reporting that negotiations in the capital have reached a stalemate and there is no end in sight.

“Recovery from the shutdown without schedule impacts is unlikely …” Bean said in a press release. “Airport users will be adversely impacted and the overall cost of the runway realignment program will increase.”

PMRA’s TSA employees are also working without pay due to the government shutdown, Bean said. As of yet, no workers have failed to show up, unlike other airports in the country that are currently experiencing TSA walkouts.

“Everybody’s working, everybody’s here, planes are leaving on time, people are getting screened,” he said. “We have a great team here, we have a lot of wonderful people that screen passengers for TSA.’’

According to PMRA’s website, the airport saw 130,943 passengers in 2018. This is up from 117,497 in 2017.