Right now, Wickenburg Municipal Airport, one of the best facilities in Wickenburg, is closed. It’s getting a major runway overhaul, with 1,500 feet added to the northeast end and 500 feet taken away from the southwest end to result in a net 1,000 foot increase in length. The completed runway, which should be opened to air traffic again in mid September, will be over 6,000 feet long.
This is a great thing for Wickenburg. The airport can now accommodate more private and fractional jets — aircraft that bring affluent people to town where they (hopefully) spend money at our guest ranches and treatment facilities. It will also make a safer facility for all types of airplanes, giving pilots plenty of space for takeoff rolls and landing rollouts. The project is being funded primarily through Federal dollars, making it a very small burden on local taxpayers. Best of all, construction is being handled by professional contractors with experience in this kind of work.
Right now, I’m one of the few Wickenburg-based pilots still flying. With the airport closed, all aircraft based there are “trapped” until it reopens. But I moved my helicopter off field before the closure and now have it based in a friend’s hangar just outside of town. I’ve been up and about several times during the closure and have brought along a passenger, on several occasions, to snap some photos of the activity.
But before I show the current condition of the airport, allow me to show some photos from my archives.
This photo was taken on August 14, 2002 — just over 4 years ago. Note the five rows of hangars and the empty area beyond them. That empty area was additional parking that was seldom used.
This photo was taken the same day from the other end of the airport — the approach end of Runway 23. I include it primarily because it shows the empty space that was used for expansion.
Fast forward a little more than a year to November 6, 2003. Construction by Bonanza Leasing on new hangars is completed. That extra unused parking area is gone, replaced by modern T-hangars with electric doors. You can see construction underway on a large box hangar constructed for personal use by part-time Wickenburg resident John Grace to house his three aircraft. Note the expansion of the Saddle Ridge development at the top right of this photo.
Construction began in May 2006. This photo was taken on June 5, 2006, not long after they broke ground. As you can see, after shortening the useable runway to about 3,500 feet, the construction crews started working the earth on the approach end of Runway 23. During this time, the airport remained open, although very few jets would land on the severely shortened runway. (That wasn’t a major concern, since Wickenburg has far less jet traffic during summer months anyway.)
By August 12, 2006, right around the time of the runway closure, the northeast of the runway and new taxiway were looking pretty good. The only trouble was, the new runway was approximately 6 feet lower than the existing one. Now the airport would be closed so the remaining old runway could be torn up and brought down to level. The fill would be shifted all over the airport to where it was needed most.
On Saturday, August 26, the last time I flew over for photos, the runway and taxiway looked just about done. In fact, they’d already begun paving the northeast end of the new taxiway, using asphalt from a plant that they build near the site of the recycling area northwest of the runway. Rumor has it, they’ll be done before the September 15 deadline.
Now the only question is, who will be the first pilot to land on that nice, new runway?
Keep checking in…I’ll finish this article when the work is complete and the airport is back to normal operations. Then you’ll have the “final” photo for this work in progress at Wickenburg Municipal Airport.