BEND, OR -- The Bend Airport is expanding its helicopter operations to accommodate anticipated growth. Airport Manager Gary Judd says the concept has been in the works since development of the 2013 Master Plan. "In order to enhance the safety and have the capacity that we need for our current traffic, we’re actually going to build a heliport bigger than we originally planned on doing. So, that’s how it got started. We did the environmentals and the FAA agreed to fund it, and they also recognized the need for it as the airport’s growing and the flight schools are growing in size, that we needed some place to move the helicopters to."
He says it’s no longer safe to have helicopters and fixed-wing planes operating so close together. "What it addresses is on the ground operations. So, you could cause control issues for the helicopter. And, on the other side, helicopters create a huge column of downward moving air that can actually flip aircraft over, they blow dirt, just generally can cause a lot of disruption on the ground. So, the two types of machines don’t mix well in close proximity on the ground." The new heliport will be built on the east side of the facility. More hangar space is also proposed.
Judd tells KBND News the airport has been growing in recent years, and this project would get the facility ready for what's to come. "The helicopter school has grown, they’re up to about 130 students. And the other thing is, the fixed-wing is starting to grow. The airlines are starting to have a shortage of pilots and that’s creating an interest in young people looking for new careers. We’re getting to where we just have to increase efficiencies of the airport and make sure we have the capacity to handle what we have and what’s expected to be had in the next few years."
The heliport is expected to be ready by next August. City Councilors this week awarded the construction contract to Jack Robinson and Sons. Judd says nearly all of the $9.5 million project will be covered by FAA and ODOT grants.