Congressman Crawford Visits Piggott Airport

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Congressman Rick Crawford (left) was joined by local leaders as he inspected the ditch at the south end of the Piggott Airport runway. The group also included, from left, airport commission member Jeff Puckett, Mayor Jim Poole, Utilities Manager Brian Haley and Sam Williams, of the Piggott Police Department.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

First District Congressman Rick Crawford visited the Piggott Municipal Airport on Thursday, Oct. 15, and met with local officials concerning a current improvement project. Recently the city applied for a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to complete the engineering phase of the project, which seeks to address the dangers presented by a ditch which crosses the south end of the runway.

During his stop in Piggott, Crawford heard an update on the project from Mayor Jim Poole, and members of the Piggott Airport Commission, and inspected the area in question. During the brief visit he also heard concerns on a number of other issues from local civic leaders. Some of those on hand were Clay County Judge Gary Howell, Piggott aldermen Lester Edwards, Mike Cook and Jamey Parks; James Magee of Piggott Community Hospital, Airport Commission members Dr. Greg Mallard, Dr. Steve White, Rodney Rouse, Jeff Puckett and Kevin Jones; deputies with the Clay County Sheriff's Department and regional cropdusters.

Earlier this year the FAA informed the city of Piggott they would not allocate any additional grant funding to the local airport until the ditch issue is addressed. At question is a drainage ditch which runs along the south end of the runway, and the dirt berm on the private property on the other side of the ditch.

According to airport commission members, in the past several years two airplanes were forced to take emergency evasive action due to the lack of a run-off area at the end of the runway. Luckily, they indicated there were no serious injuries to the pilots or passengers, but the aircrafts were heavily damaged.

According to commissioner Steve White, the length of the airport also disqualifies the local facility from instrument landing scenarios. ""You must have at least a 3,000 foot runway for instrument landings," he explained.

Mayor Poole, Utilities Manager Brian Haley, Sam Williams of the Piggott Police Department and Airport Commissioner Puckett accompanied Crawford to the south end of the runway to survey the scene. Puckett explained the effort to build a bridge over the ditch was also complicated by the ditches on either side of the runway, as FAA regulations would require a structure which would encompass all three. Poole also noted the ditch is part of the St. Francis Drainage District, and any changes would have to meet their approval.

Mayor Poole noted the initial funding has been secured to do the engineering study, but added it was unclear if grant funds would be available for the actual construction once the studies are completed and a plan in place.

Congressman Crawford advised the local officials to keep his office updated on the progress of the project, and promised to continue to support the effort.

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