AUGUSTA — The main runway of the Augusta State Airport, which was closed for reconstruction the last two months, reopened at 3:41 p.m. Friday.
That clears the way for Cape Air to resume commercial passenger service between Augusta and Boston. Cape Air’s first flight is this morning.
“We’re happy to be able to reconnect Augusta to the national transportation system,” said Andrew Bonney, vice president of planning for Massachusetts-based Cape Air. “We appreciate the fact the airport had to do the main runway reconstruction and repair work they did.”
The runway reopened Friday after a final round of painting was completed, and a Federal Aviation Administration crew was on hand for final inspections before the 5,100-foot airstrip reopened.
While Cape’s pilots will resume flying in Augusta today, other pilots didn’t wait that long.
“We’ve already had three landings,” Airport Manager John Guimond said at 4:06 p.m. Friday.
The two-month-long main runway reconstruction left only the airport’s 2,700 foot alternate runway open for planes. And that runway wasn’t long enough for Cape Air’s planes.
Throughout the closure, Bonney said the small airline continued to take reservations for when the runway would be ready.
“Advanced bookings have been very strong considering there have been no (Cape flights in Augusta in May or June),” Bonney said. “We’re within 6 percent of where we were last year. Currently we have 1,106 bookings for July. It has been a pretty easy process. We appreciate the patience of the community.”
Guimond said the $7.5 million, federally-funded safety improvement project came in on budget and on schedule.
He praised the work of main contractor Pike Industries.
Guimond said the original plan was to open the main runway while other work continued such as light replacement and other airport safety improvement work. However, he said all work on the lights and most other systems has already been completed, ahead of the original schedule.
He said the only remaining work is to finish off a navigational aid upgrade, which is ready but still needs to be checked by the FAA.
The entire main runway was ground up, reclaimed and repaved. The new runway is 50 feet narrower than the old, going from 150 to 100 feet wide. Runway width is determined by FAA standards.
The runway reconstruction was originally planned for last summer, but anticipated federal funding for it was delayed, forcing the work to be put off until this spring.
Cape Air has four daily flights between Augusta and Boston.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647