$5.58 million grant for Ennis-Big Sky Airport

The Ennis-Big Sky Airport received $5.58 million to improve its infrastructure.

The Federal Aviation Administration awarded the grant Feb. 19. The money will be used to expand and repair the Ennis-Big Sky Airport to meet FAA design requirements. Airport engineer, Lance Bowser, expected construction to begin April 2020. “It’s exciting in a way,” Jani Flinn from the Madison County Commissioners Airport and Grants Office said. “We have more planes coming in and it brings more economic value to Madison County.”

The Madison Valley airport off of US Highway 287 has outgrown its runway, taxiway and aprons. It has struggled to accommodate the increasing aircraft traffic for years. In July 2019, a private aircraft began sinking when it stopped in an area it was not supposed to be in. A wide turn on the taxi-way caused the 56,800-pound aircraft to cross over the south apron, which the 29-year-old pavement could not hold.The FAA required Ennis-Big Sky Airport to grow or deny aircrafts based on the volume of usage and the size of aircrafts. But it is up to the pilots’ discretion to use the Ennis-Big Sky Airport, according to Flinn. The expansion benefits Madison County and the people who visit.

“It’s driven by the FAA,” Flinn said.

Madison County and the Ennis-Big Sky Airport have spent over three years on getting FAA grants. The environmental assessment for the airport expansion took two years to complete. Land acquisitions from eight different landowners were a three-year endeavor. The efforts first came to fruition in 2019 with a $9.3 million FAA grant. It will fund the widening, lengthening, leveling and strengthening of the airport’s runway. The runway will be broadened to 100 feet wide and 7,600 feet long, over seven times the current length.The $5.58 million grant, which requires a 10% local match, will fund associated costs to improving the airport’s infrastructure. It will be used to reconstruct 80,400 square feet of pavement that has reached the end of its useful life, replace the airport’s rotating beacon and guidance systems, apply pavement sealing and crack repair to 91,800 square feet to extend existing pavement’s useful life, extend the taxiway to 7,600 feet to meet the runway safety area and protection zone standards and fencing. “It’s a big economic boost for Madison County,” Madison County Commissioner Ron Nye said.

Companies can start bidding for the project Wednesday.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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