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Monroe County Airport Flights Diverted Due To Sinkholes

closed runway

Photo: Alex Dierckman/WTIU News

A lighted runway closure sign sits at each end of the runway to warn pilots that the runway is closed.

The Monroe County airport is expected to lose between $12,000 and $20,000 in fuel, landing and emergency maintenance fees in the next 60 days as it fills in three sinkholes that were discovered in 2011.

The Monroe County Airport is keeping another smaller runway open, but any plane larger than a private jet will not be able to land there.

As a result, companies such as Cook Aviation and Indiana University have to fly into the Indianapolis International Airport.

Cook Aviation officials see the project as temporary, and Cook Aviation President Rex Hinkle says they will route flights back to the regional airport once the work is complete.

“We’ve been preparing for this for about a year, year and a half and it’s finally come to this day, and it’s good,” he says.

The FAA awarded the Monroe County airport a nearly $11-million grant to make the sinkhole repairs just three weeks ago.

Airport Manager Bruce Payton says since the sinkholes’ discovery, the airport has lost business because some companies were wary of landing their planes on the runway.

“The larger charter jets that bring in the athletic teams have expressed concern about landing in an area where there are known voids and sinkholes under the runway surface,” he says.

An estimated 430,000 cubic yards of dirt will be removed from sinkholes starting this week. Payton estimates a 30-foot pile of dirt will be stockpiled on the property after the project is over.

Large yellow X’s have been place at the ends of the main runway and on the tarmac, indicating the runway is closed.

Airport officials also plan to resurfacing the entire runway. Using the FAA grant, the airport will complete both projects at the same time.

Despite the financial loss to the airport, the project is providing some economic benefits to the area.

Crider and Crider, the contractor on the project, plans to hire 60 union workers to work two 10-hour shifts per day.

“It’s a serious economic boost,” he says. “When that money reverberates through the community, not only are we getting the result of a great project here, that doesn’t all have to come from our local funding, but it’s also coming back to all the businesses in the community,” Payton says.

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