The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous effect on our community, our nation, and the global travel industry. Without warning, people were no longer allowed to gather in groups. Projects came to a halt as companies and organizations learned to work remotely. And stay-at-home orders across the country changed the face of aviation, likely for years to come.

All of these unplanned issues affected the Heber Valley Airport Flightpath project schedule. The Flightpath team was no longer able to coordinate in-person committee meetings or public open houses. Communications with the Federal Aviation Administration were paused while the agency dealt with the crisis, and no one was certain how airports would recover.

But time marches forward, and as we move from an unknown pandemic to a new normal, the Flightpath team is ready to hit the ground running in 2021. We have updated our data, added new communications tools, and reset our timeline.

It’s time to get back on track.

What’s Been Done
Since the Airport Master Plan update process launched a year ago, the Heber City Council and its aviation partners have made significant progress. The crucial initial steps of data-gathering and analysis are complete, and we had the first opportunity to bring project details to the community in an open-house setting. Our Community and Technical Advisory Committees have reviewed the first three chapters of the draft Airport Master Plan update, and these chapters are also on the Flightpath website for public review.

The Flightpath consultants are now developing the draft Forecast, which utilizes that previously gathered data to determine what the next two decades might look like for Heber Valley Airport. The team has also developed a revised project timeline. This timeline begins today, and provides more specific information about the steps in the project. It also offers estimated timeframes to complete the many steps.

What Comes Next
The Flightpath team and the airport sponsor are eager to bring the public back into the Airport Master Plan update process. When the Forecast draft is complete, the team will share it with the advisory committees and the public. This second public meeting will be a virtual open house, where the subject matter experts will present the airport’s Inventory and Forecast, as well as provide a refresher on what happened in 2020.

Once the Sponsor and the public have had the opportunity to review the draft Forecast, a final draft will be sent to the FAA for review and approval. The FAA will review the Flightpath team’s methodologies and assumptions and, if they are found to be sound, the agency will approve the Forecast. The project schedule will pause until the FAA gives its approval of the Forecast.

Once the Forecast is approved, the Flightpath team will discover what the airport facility would need to look like to safely support operations for the next twenty years. The facility requirements step is a multiweek effort to review the current inventory and understand what has to be addressed to accommodate the approved Forecast. The facility requirements are driven by federal regulations and include elements such as runway safety areas, ramp space, and taxiway separations, and constitute the “must haves” of future efforts. It is important to note that the facility requirement step does not include hangar development, specific business designations, or other potential land uses.

After the team identifies the elements that need to be addressed, the project moves into the Alternatives portion. This is when the airport sponsor, technical advisors, and the community identify the variety of ways that the airport can address those changes—in other words, how the airport can transform from its current facility layout design to one that better serves the Heber Valley while accommodating the required safety regulations. This portion of the project will offer many “nice to have” options and will require a lot of public participation to narrow down the possibilities.

The Flightpath team believes that developing the Forecast, receiving FAA approval, determining the facility requirements, and developing the alternatives will take the project through the 2021 calendar year. While much of an Airport Master Plan update is driven by regulations and data, 2021 will provide the most opportunity for the Heber community to weigh in on what it wants its airport to look like in the future. The Heber City Council and the entire Flightpath team hope you will join them as we resume the course.