Projects nearing takeoff

Jets on the ground at the Charleston Executive Airport. The airport will spend more than $9 million to rebuild the main runway.

The Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island is gearing up for more than $12 million in federally funded improvement projects this year, one of which is expected to use stimulus money.

Most of the construction money, more than $9 million, will come from regular U.S. Department of Transportation grant funds, and will be used to rebuild the small airport's main runway, which was built by the Navy in 1944 to train B-24 bomber crews.

These days, the publicly owned airport between River Road and the Stono River is used by charter flights, corporate jets, crop dusters, flight schools, the Charleston County mosquito abatement program and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Susan Stevens, director of airports at the Charleston County Aviation Authority, said the runway work will rebuild and slightly realign the 5,000-foot runway, moving it about 350 feet closer to River Road, in order to move the other end of the runway that much farther from the Stono River, to comply with federal safety regulations.

"It's in design right now, and we hope to bid in June," she said. "This was already in line for funding."

Stimulus money from President Barack Obama's $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would come into play for a different project at the airport: expanding a jet apron, which is essentially a parking lot for airplanes.

The $3 million project would expand by about 3 acres a 5-acre jet apron built last year next to a new terminal building constructed by Atlantic Aviation.

That's the $3 million airport project that was included on Charleston Mayor Joe Riley's list of area construction projects that could potentially benefit from stimulus money, though it is the airport authority that would apply for the money and the Federal Aviation Administration that would decide on the funding.

"We are in the process of filling out the proper forms and so on," Stevens said. "We are on the FAA's list. We have been given an indication that we are going to get it."

She said the runway project could begin in August and take about nine months.

The airport's second, 4,300-foot runway would be used in the meantime.

The federal money for the runway job comes from a federal tax on commercial airline tickets, Stevens said.