Merrill Field plans for future growth

A prop engine plane taking off at Merrill Field in Anchorage
A prop engine plane taking off at Merrill Field in Anchorage(Staff)
Published: Dec. 11, 2021 at 4:30 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Exciting upgrades are in the works for Merrill Field in the long term. Airport Manager Ralph Gibbs says he sees a promising future for the downtown airport.

“With some of the CARES money, the (Federal Aviation Administration) allowed us to contract with Hughes Aerospace ... to put in five — not precision but lower weather minimum approaches — into our runways,” Gibbs said.

Those upgrades would mean that if the weather gets bad and there are commercial operators trying to return to Merrill Field, they will be able to fly into the airport at altitudes that are 200 to 300 feet lower than currently allowed and not have to instead land at the Ted Steven’s Anchorage International Airport.

“We’re working on some property acquisitions to facilitate the creation of, an innovation, an aerospace innovation center,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said Launch Alaska is looking to bring in seven aerospace companies to Merrill Field, including an electric airplane manufacturer. The property Gibbs is looking to acquire is adjacent to the airport that has previously been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Also in 2022, Merrill Field is making improvements to their main runway. Gibbs is also looking toward a possible expansion of the runway, which is an idea that’s been floating around recently between community councils and assembly members. The project would expand the main runway that runs from east to west so that larger planes would be able to land.

One of Anchorage Assembly Member Vice Chair Chris Constant’s concerns was that an underpass would have to be built by the Northway Mall area, or extend it through Fairview Park.

Sharon Chamard, who is the chair of the Fairview Community Council Merrill Field committee said she hopes they get to be involved in the process.

“Our point in the Fairview Community Council is that we just want to be, you know, informed of everything that’s happening. We want to have a, as I said before, a seat at the table so that we can, if it is going to happen, that it happens in a way that benefits as many groups and people as possible and disadvantages as few people as possible,” Chamard said.

Gibbs said he doesn’t see this happening, but if it did he said it wouldn’t be for awhile.

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