The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport reopened on Saturday morning after it was closed for two weeks for a runway resurfacing project, and “local businessman and pilot Larry Baum” was the first to fly into the airport on the new runway.
Airport officials say Baum, a longtime member of the Tompkins County Air Services Board, flew his six-passenger, twin-engine Aerostar, powered by two 350hp turbocharged air-cooled engines, into Ithaca on Saturday morning. Baum is also the founder of the Computing Center, a local IT business with its offices near the airport in the Cornell Business & Technology Park. He has served as East Hill Aviation Foundation president and is also a member of the East Hill Flying Club.
According to a statement in March, “The runway has not been resurfaced in 22 years.” The project forced the airport to be closed from 8pm on July 8th until 5am on July 23rd. “We have a team that will be working 24 hours a day to resurface the runway” during that time, officials said.
Larger airports with multiple runways can operate with one while working on another, or sometimes paving can be done in phases, using overnight hours and keeping the runway operational during the day. “That would have taken 55 days and planes would be taking off from a runway that was under construction,” airport director Mike Hall tells us, though. “We felt that, in our travelers’ best interests and for safety reasons, we should just close the runway for two weeks and finish the project as safely and quickly as possible,” Hall says.
The airport wasn’t available for any takeoffs or landings during the two-week stretch, so while hobbyist pilots could opt to keep their planes there, most flew them to another location so they could use them if needed. Commercial airlines routed Ithaca-area passengers to other airports, including Syracuse, Elmira, and Binghamton. Commercial flights in and out of Ithaca resumed this weekend, operated by the regional carriers that serve as “feeder” flights to the big airlines that operate out of hubs at Philadelphia, Newark, and Detroit.
During the closure, airport officials set up bright warning markers, including a huge lit “X” facing the runway approach paths, to warn any pilots who might not have been aware that the runway wasn’t available for landing.
“We were so excited for the Aerostar to be our first airline operation on the newly resurfaced runway,” airport officials said on Monday.