$11M runway project begins at IYK Airport

$11M runway project begins at IYK AirportA massive runway improvement project more than 10 years in the making is now in full swing at Inyokern Airport. While IYK General Manager Scott Seymour said that he anticipates some disruptions in operations for the duration, he pointed to massive benefits to the airport and the community at large.

The project is funded by a $10 million grant from the FAA and a $1 million match that came from a CARES Act Airport Grant. It will include the complete reconstruction of Runway 2-20, the prevailing wind runway that stretches 6,275 feet long and 75 feet wide.

The upgrade will include the installation of new LED runway lights, which last longer and are less expensive to maintain. The grant will also fund new signage throughout the entire airport.

The project is the largest improvement the airport has undertaken since the Indian Wells Valley Airport District was established in 1985.

Seymour says, “It is a total reconstruction of one of the runways that had some damage in the seismic events of July 2019, and we’ve seen that get progressively worse. We first tried to do this project in 2009 but the bids were too high. We went out to bid in July 2020 to do this project and we got a good bid on it. Granite Construction was the low bidder on it. I think we had five companies bid on it. It is a total of about 11.2 million dollars, project. The company has 260 working days to complete the project. The runway was in really bad shape and we were starting to see a lot of block cracking and pieces of asphalt coming out. It was becoming a safety issue. Luckily we were able to secure the grant and go out to bid. The real benefit is we will be able to handle heavier military aircraft coming in, we do a lot with the military. That is important. And it is really important for the safety of our users to have safe runways.”

“As well as with the military, we work with special operations groups and a lot of film work that brings millions of dollars of disposable income into the community. It is not per se going to bring in more traffic from film crews. It was basically done for safety because the runway was falling apart. Money comes from the special operations groups, the Air Force, Army, and Navy. In July and August I ran over 300 people through this airport for training, we supported 30 helicopters for a special operations group. They spent a lot of money on range time at the base, hotels, take-out from restaurants, buying gas, renting cars.

We started Feb 22, since COVID, filming has been really down. I turned down eight requests for filming in the last three weeks which would have netted the airport $150,000. We can’t do filming now because of the construction. One of our runways has an unobstructed view of the Sierras which the filmmakers use.”

When Seymour took over management of the airport in 2006, he discovered that the airport had not been taking advantage of the $1 million in FAA improvement money that IYK was entitled to. For several years he established a way for IYK to benefit from that money and used it to fix up runways, facilities and other amenities that helped attract tenants and visitors.

When the airport lost commuter air service in 2013, our entitlement money dropped from $1 million to $150,000 annually.

“We knew that we could survive on that for a short time, but quickly began exploring other ways to increase our grant money and other funding sources so that we would not fall behind in our ability to maintain this as a viable installation.” Since that time, Seymour and his team have found success in discretionary allocations that help offset some of the entitlement money that no longer comes to IYK.

Although air services has not yet been restored, the team has been successful in finding creative ways to continue supporting government and industry, presenting considerable advantages to the Indian Wells Valley as an economic engine and furthering the inherent value to anyone who uses the airport for commercial and private operations.

Pictured: Pavement Recycling Systems, a subcontractor to Granite Construction, operates a pavement grinder during the removal of the top structural section of Runway 2-20 at Inyokern Airport. - Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2021-03-05