The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is the United States Air Force’s most expensive plane. For each hour the $2 billion jet spends in flight, it spends another hundred hours in maintenance. That includes regular and total disassembly: every part is taken apart, inspected inside out, and gingerly put back together again.
Such scrutiny, planning and focus on safety are required of all elements of aviation – including the development and improvements at airports. That’s why Eden Prairie’s own Flying Cloud Airport (FCM) is currently developing its Long-Term Plan (LTP): a study of facility and infrastructure needs based on projected activity through 2040. It will ensure that the busiest reliever airport managed by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) – which generates approximately $230 million in economic output annually, and supports nearly 1,200 jobs – remains safe, efficient, and profitable.
“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and various state and local agencies ask us to update our LTP every seven to ten years,” said Eric Gilles, senior airport planner and project manager of the LTP. “That fosters a dynamic environment for planning in which we routinely review the existing and future needs of FCM. It also gives us an opportunity to engage with airport users and community stakeholders so we can better understand their aspirations.
“The LTP helps us align FCM’s operations with three primary objectives: enhancing airport safety, preserving (and, if possible, improving) capabilities for the current family of aircraft using the airport, and promoting financial sustainability of the MAC reliever airport system by exploring revenue opportunities for aeronautical and non-aeronautical development alike.
“Much of airport planning revolves around adhering to the FAA’s design guidance for all airport elements like runways, taxiways and hangar development areas. For runways, the LTP often includes ensuring we are satisfying slope requirements for the runway safety area, as well as compliance with the runway’s object-free area and land use protection zones. These are all critical elements in ensuring a high level of safety for the airport and air traffic system.
“Part of our mission to preserve FCM’s operational capabilities includes assessing all current air traffic activity, and anticipating the sort of activity we should reasonably expect to accommodate in the future. Although our FAA-approved forecast predicts modest growth over the coming two decades, we still must make certain we will continually meet the standards of upcoming aircraft designs.
“Once we have identified a preferred plan, the LTP will review potential opportunities to execute the plan through phases over the next 20 years in a fiscally responsible fashion. Essentially, the LTP keeps us mindful of what we can realistically achieve.
“We anticipate completion of the LTP around the second quarter of 2024. It must be reviewed by the Metropolitan Council before we can take any potential action, which should begin around the middle of next year. Sometime in early 2024, we will also conduct another wave of public engagement, which will provide additional opportunities to receive public feedback. The community engagement process has been invaluable to the LTP process, and I am grateful for everyone’s participation and feedback.”
While the date is not yet set, public event information will become available on the MAC’s website. Please visit metroairports.org/fcm-long-term-plan to learn more!
The Long-Term Plan keeps us mindful of what we can realistically achieve.