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Arnold Palmer Regional Airport's updated runway cleared for landing

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, 4:18 p.m.
A Sprit Airlines plane sits at the terminal of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity Township, during the first day of commercial operations after a 10 day resurfacing project that fully repaved the runway and tarmac, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A Sprit Airlines plane sits at the terminal of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity Township, during the first day of commercial operations after a 10 day resurfacing project that fully repaved the runway and tarmac, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

Planes are cleared once more for takeoffs and landings at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport after the runway was closed for more than a week for repaving.

Spirit Airlines, the Unity airport's sole carrier, provided passenger service at Pittsburgh International Airport while the smaller airport was closed to fixed-wing aircraft since Sept. 12. Derry Construction Co. and several subcontractors rehabilitated and strengthened the runway by milling its surface, repairing cracks and laying fresh pavement.

According to officials with the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which operates Arnold Palmer Regional, the runway was ready for air traffic by noon Wednesday. The first plane to touch down on the improved surface was a Bombardier Global business jet piloted by Brad Kilkeary of L.J. Aviation, a charter service based at the airport.

Spirit returned to the airport about 10 a.m. Thursday, when a flight arrived from Ft. Lauderdale.

A stretch of mild, mostly dry conditions allowed officials to return the runway to service more than a day ahead of schedule.

β€œIt really went well. You couldn't have asked for better weather,” said authority spokesman Dwayne Pickels.

Crews used 26,000 tons of asphalt to restore the runway, which is 8,223 feet long and 100 feet wide. Most of the $2.7 million cost was covered by grants, with the Federal Aviation Administration accounting for 90 percent and the state Bureau of Aviation picking up another 5 percent.

At the same time, Derry Construction repaired and refreshed pavement on the airport's 62,370-square-yard main apron, at a cost of $1.15 million.

Pickels noted a few work items remain β€” applying new markings on the apron and replacing temporary runway markings with permanent ones, after crews return to place grooves in the pavement that will improve water drainage and traction.

The markings reflect the runway's new designation as Runway 6-24 β€” changing from Runway 5-23, since its compass headings have shifted along with the earth's magnetic field.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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