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Bowman County Courthouse
104 1st St NW
Bowman, ND 58623

New Bowman airport to be operational in May

January 02, 2015

A look at the future central terminal at the new Bowman Airport. The Bowman County Airport Authority expects the airport to be fully operational in MaY after almost a decade of planning and delays. Photo by Bryce Martin | Pioneer
A look at the future central terminal at the new Bowman Airport. The Bowman County Airport Authority expects the airport to be fully operational in May after almost a decade of planning and delays. Photo by Bryce Martin | Pioneer

By Bryce Martin | Pioneer Editor |

After almost a decade of planning and many months of construction, the new airport in Bowman County was given a completion date.

Aircraft will be able to fly in and out of the new airport beginning sometime in May, according to the Bowman County Airport Authority. The new deadline for the airport’s completion was derived from a compromise made earlier this year between the airport authority board and the Federal Aviation Authority.

The project was marred with setbacks since its inception in 2006.

Location-related planning issues, poor weather conditions, project funding and a government sequestration further delayed construction in 2014.

Most recently, the airport authority has worked to squash certain rumors about the new airport, casting more doubt on an already beleaguered project.

“There’s a certain percent out there that’s just against any change,” said Rodney Schaaf, president of the Bowman County Airport Authority. “A lot of it is (they) don’t understand the terminology and things like that. It doesn’t take long in a small community for things to get blown out of proportion.”

The rumor mill suggested that the new airport’s runway would not be much different than the old one, with a runway that could not handle heavier aircrafts.

“Some people were saying that it’s no better than what the old runway is,”

And that was untrue, Schaaf explained.

The current airport’s runway has a maximum gross weight capacity of 12,500 pounds at which it would be safe to operate an aircraft everyday of a given year with no degradation of the surface.

The new airport’s runway is almost three times that capacity, rated at 30,000 pounds of gross weight. It is also different because it is rated for a tandem axle, meaning it could support aircrafts with more than a single wheel. The runway could handle the size of most jetliners, able to be used everyday without restriction.

“… Any of the corporate jets could use it no problem,” Schaaf said.

Schaaf said he explained those facts to the Bowman County Board of Commissioners last month to help dispel any misconceptions.

The airport has already received several calls from different oil industry outfits asking specific details related to the new airport.

“There is definitely going to be an interest,” he said. “It’s going to draw people because you’ll always like to land on a longer, concrete runway.”

And, once active, Bowman’s will acquire the title of longest runway for a general aviation airport in North Dakota, excluding those found in the larger cities.

The new airport will also maintain certain rules and regulations, penned by the airport authority, that Schaaf said many, even those in the pilot community, have yet to see.

Some of those rules are specific to private hangars and construction at the site, Schaaf said.

If a person wants to build a hangar at the new airport, it has to have a certain color metal siding, a certain roof pitch and similar requirements, “because we want it to be a uniform type airport,” Schaaf said. “We don’t want anything shoddy out there that’s just going to degrade the looks. We want to do it right.”

Structures at the new airport will have polar white sidewalls with green roof and trim, according to Schaaf.

“There’s some taxpayer dollars in there, we want it to look nice and be a nice functioning airport,” he said. “We don’t want to have a slum out there, you might say.”

Major infrastructure projects have been completed at the new site, which is roughly two miles east of the city of Bowman on N.D. Highway 12. Construction of the concrete runway, runway lights, taxiways, taxiway lights, parking ramp, an initial fuel farm pad, access road and access road lighting have all been completed, which leaves only a few items to be finished.

Ongoing at the site is the assembly of several private aircraft hangars, central terminal and the airport’s automated weather observations system (AWOS). The AWOS collects and stores data about local weather conditions for pilots approaching or departing Bowman.

The FAA requires the AWOS to collect 30 or 60 days worth of weather information prior to becoming operational to ensure it works properly. Then that data is submitted to the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to receive a license.

The red iron shell of a building now stands at the new airport, which will function as the airport’s main terminal and maintenance equipment storage. Insulation, sheeting and interior work on the building will soon begin.

The terminal will house bathrooms, a conference room, a flight planning room, offices and an area for the weather modification program’s operations center.

The Doppler radar used by the weather modification program will remain at the current airport until after this year’s weather mod season, but the aircraft it uses will takeoff from the new location.

Final details at the new airport will be completed in the spring, such as the installation of fuel tanks.