Clark Field Municipal Airport is set for a temporary closure next week as paving crews move in to rehabilitate the 4,200-foot runway and other paved surfaces.

As part of a two-phase project, the local airport is tentatively scheduled to close to all incoming and outgoing air traffic beginning March 24, said Drew Wells, director of community services for the city of Stephenville.

Paving crews from Jay Mills Contracting, Inc., the local firm who was awarded the bid to carry out the approximately half-million dollar job, should complete the pavement rehabilitation project by April 7. Wells said the completion timeline is dependent upon the weather, which could delay work beyond the planned schedule.

Funding for the $526,941 airport improvement paving project comes from a Texas Department of Transportation grant the city received in 2007, said Wells. The city of Stephenville participated in the grant by matching 10 percent of the total cost to the state’s 90 percent to carry out design and construction aspects of the project.

Airport Manager Bill Smith said that although air traffic will temporarily be disrupted, the rehabilitation of the airfield’s runway, taxiways and ramps is a good thing for the city.

“Everybody out here is pretty pleased and happy about getting the improvements made,” said Smith, who oversees the airport which averages 300 landings and takeoffs per month. “The airport will be closed to incoming and outgoing flights, but there could be some exceptions. It will all depend on the contractor’s schedule.”

A total of 29 aircraft call Clark Field home, and of those, several pilots routinely fly out of Stephenville on a weekly basis, said Smith. “We’ve contacted everybody and the ones that use their aircraft on a regular basis, most of them have already made arrangements to tie down at some other airport. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a hangar somewhere else. They’re hard to come by.”

The airport manager says no more than 10 aircraft will have to temporarily move during the rehabilitation project, but several regular visitors who come to town for business have made plans to land elsewhere.

“The majority of local pilots are going to Granbury and Comanche, and one says they are transferring their plane to Springtown,” said Smith. “All the pilots who come in for business have made arrangements to go somewhere else, most likely Mineral Wells.”

Smith says Granbury’s airport will be able to accommodate local pilots but has a short runway that makes jet aircraft takeoffs difficult.

On March 21, Smith says he will file a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) with the Federal Aviation Administration, to notify pilots and the aviation community nationwide that Clark Field is temporarily out of service.

Wells reported that the contractor will begin prep work for the slurry seal next Monday, in hopes that the entire project can be completed quickly to limit disruption in air traffic.

“First they’ll prep the site and will place some new material in the places that are cracked. They’ll then come back and apply a new seal coat during that time,” said Wells. “The reason for the closure is that there will be some trucks and equipment running around the airport.”

After the surfaces are resealed, Wells said the material will need to cure for approximately two weeks. “We’ll re-open the airport for about two weeks and then come back and shut the airport down again for two or three days to re-stripe and mark the runway and taxiways.”

Smith and other pilots look forward to the project’s completion, which precludes additional improvements scheduled for the local airport, including a new terminal building.

“It will work out fine for us because we’re adding on to an existing hangar here,” said Smith. “We’re gonna use that time to start moving our shop equipment because the terminal building project will start before too long. The maintenance hangar we’re using now, they’re going to completely renovate it, and it sits where the new terminal will be. This will all be a nice addition for Stephenville.”