Knowledge takes flight
December 22, 2017 · Community
Civil engineering students from Auburn University were given a look at the practical application of transportation engineering on a recent visit to the Lanett Municipal Airport in Lanett, Ala., where construction is underway to expand and reorient the runway.
The excursion was coordinated by members of the GMC Transportation Engineering Department, Auburn Department of Civil Engineering, Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student chapter and the City of Lanett. Those present from GMC, all graduates of Auburn University’s civil engineering program, hoped using one of their projects as a case study would give the students real-world context for what they are learning in the classroom.
Prior to visiting the airport, GMC Airport Engineer Ryan Pearce and Airport Planner Matt Thomason presented an overview of the project, detailing its history and providing insight on the unique considerations and FAA regulations airports and runways are subject to. The approximately $6 million project involves the realignment of the existing runway, which is hindered from expansion on both ends by Interstate 85 and an electrical transmission line. The reorientation will allow the runway to be extended to 4,400 feet to accommodate today’s modern general aviation and business aircraft, with room to expand to 5,400 feet in the future.
Once they arrived at Lanett Municipal Airport, the students were provided with an orientation and safety briefing before traveling to several locations on the construction site. At each location, Pearce and Thomason walked them through the construction application of the design, answering the students’ questions along the way. They also discussed topics such as land acquisition, working with federal and state agencies, obtaining funding and other practical takeaways not necessarily covered in a textbook.
“Visiting an active construction site allows students to develop a greater understanding of how civil and transportation engineering theory is put into practice,” Thomason said. “To see firsthand the practical applications of transportation design in the field and how they relate to project management, safety, environmental issues, and logistics is great experience for the students.”
City of Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy stopped by to welcome the students and encourage them in their career pursuit, emphasizing that a good engineer is of “great value to a community.” He also shared with them the impact the project will have in making the city more economic friendly and attractive to industries.
Lanett Municipal Airport Runway Realignment Overview
The Lanett Municipal Airport is a publicly-owned and operated airport situated along the Alabama – Georgia border approximately 70 miles northeast of Montgomery, Ala., and 75 miles southwest of Atlanta. The presence of the KIA Motors Corporation plant less than 12 miles from Lanett, together with a rapidly expanding corporate base including Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers and five nearby industrial parks, indicate the importance of the airport for economic development and growth in the region. Since 2010, the city has progressed on the steps necessary to realign the runway for airport expansion which was made possible by a $5 million allocation from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. The city has completed $1.9 million in projects to conclude the planning and land acquisition phases required for the initial runway. Design of the initial 4,400-foot runway realignment was completed in 2016, with construction beginning in 2017. Previous FAA planning approvals justified the runway to extend to 5,400 feet, however FAA required the initial phase be adjusted to 4,400 feet to operate within the current funding limits. A 5,400-foot runway is necessary to accommodate the range of modern business aircraft. An additional $7.3 million in 90 percent matching FAA funds is needed to complete the project to the justified length.