Community leaders, state officials, engineering firm representatives, local businessmen all put shovels in the ground Nov. 3 to break ground on the new Greensburg Airport located at 37th Avenue and I Street.

Editor's note: Some of the information in this story was provided by the City of Greensburg.

By Gale Rose

The long-anticipated dream of a new airport for Kiowa County has finally come true. Ground was broken Friday, Nov. 3, on a cold, overcast day in a mowed CRP field at 37th Avenue and I Street.

Representatives from the city, county, state agencies, state house in Topeka, construction team and engineering firm representatives were on hand to see the culmination of years of work to being the vision of a new airfield to reality.

In the first phase, the airport will begin as a grass runway 3,200 feet long and 120 feet wide. More grading will be done for an ultimate paved runway length of 4,000 feet long. Paving the runway will take place some time in the future when more funds become available.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $1.1 million with construction starting in late November with a 90 day construction period, depending on the weather. Construction completion is expected in early 2018.

It took five grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation to support the development and construction of the field, said Mark Jacobs, aviation engineer and project manager for H.W. Lochner Transportation Engineers that is are providing the engineering and design for the airfield.

The city and county have been very supportive. They helped with the bidding process and getting the power line buried, Jacobs said.

Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson said the airport is a continuation of the growth of the city after the tornado on May 4, 2007 that destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg. The process of getting the new runway actually started in 2011 and was spurred on by the possible growth a new airport would bring to Kiowa County for both public and private property owners. The airport will provide better service for fixed wing aircraft.

R.J.A. Dozer is in charge of moving the tons of earth necessary to carve a smooth, grass landing strip out of the rolling hills now covered with CRP grass. Owners Jordan and Jason Amy expect to start moving dirt the Monday after Thanksgiving and have most of the work done by the end of the year.

Grass seeding will start in the spring and irrigation will be brought in to make sure the grass is up and growing during the summer. The field should be open for operation sometime in the fall of 2018.

Richard Carlson, Kansas Secretary of Transportation, said the progress on the project was an extraordinary transformation considering the available funding.

Sen. Mary Jo Taylor, District 33, said the airport would be a huge asset to the county. It took the vision of a lot of people to make airport a reality. There was good cooperation with state and federal agencies to make it happen. The growth that can come out of this project will add to the quality of life in Kiowa County.

Rep. Leonard Mastroni, 117th District, said history has shown that airports help spur economic growth. Businesses like spraying services as well as business leaders and emergency aircraft can all use the airport to the advantage of the community.

The airport is good for Greensburg and Mastroni said he could see new jobs coming out of this project.

When the Paul Windle Municipal Airport closed in Greensburg it left Kiowa County without a publicly owned, public use airport. The 27 mile and 30 minute drive distance to the nearest was sufficient for the Kansas Department of Transportation to complete a feasibility study that identified the need of an airport in Greensburg, according to information from the City of Greensburg.

The future runway length will eventually be able to provide service for 95 percent of the nation's aviation fleet including small and medium sized piston and turbo prop airplanes. Eventually, it will be able to provide all weather access for air ambulance service. According to KDOT, the airport will generate nearly $425,000 in economic output on the local economy.

Currently, there are 13 registered single and twin engine planes in Kiowa County with 10 of those craft expected to be based at the airport in the near future. Eventually, the airport is expected to host 20 based airplanes and experience nearly 5,000 annual takeoffs and landings, according to city information.