Spokane International Airport will open its new runway extension on Thursday morning after months of major construction.
The improved runway is now 11,000 feet long, up from the old length of 9,000 feet.
Thursday’s reopening of the extended runway follows weeks of testing on the reliability of an instrument landing system that was reinstalled to match the extended length on the southwest end.
A longer runway will allow airlines to carry more weight, especially during summertime takeoffs when heat reduces lift under an airplane’s wings.
Initially, the airport’s category III landing system will be available for aircraft approaching from the northeast and landing on the “Runway 21” approach. The opposite approach – “Runway 3” – won’t have its instrument landing system in operation until Nov. 18.
Acme Paving Inc., of Spokane; Scarsella Bros., of Kent, Wash.; and Colvico Inc., of Spokane, were involved in the $30 million job.
Funds for the work came from the airport’s passenger facility charge of $4.50 per flight.
Last year, $7 million was spent to improve the gradient of a portion of the existing main runway to allow it to shed water more efficiently. That job was financed through last year’s federal economic stimulus measure.
Next year, work will shift to the northeast end of the runway where another $30 million will be spent to raise the grade by 6 to 7 feet.
Runway numbers are used to distinguish the compass heading for the direction of the landing. Aircraft arrive and depart with their noses into the wind. As a result, each span of runway has two runway designations.
On Runway 21, aircraft land from northeast to southwest on a compass heading of 210 degrees. On Runway 3, the compass heading is the opposite at 30 degrees. The zero in the compass heading is dropped in designating the runway number. This applies at other airports as well.
Prevailing winds in Spokane flow from the southwest, making Runway 21 the likely approach during unsettled weather.