Pendleton’s Eastern Oregon Regional Airport could eventually be reduced to a single runway.
Airport Manager Steve Chrisman said the Federal Aviation Administration recently decided to pull maintenance funding from the airport’s secondary runway.
The FAA normally picks up 95 percent of the tab when it comes to runway maintenance projects, but Chrisman said the agency determined the airport’s primary runway can handle all of the airport’s traffic.
According to Chrisman, the FAA’s top reason for defunding the secondary infrastructure was that its primary runway can accommodate aircraft under many wind conditions, which means there does need to be a secondary landing or takeoff area.
The city lobbied the federal government to prevent them from closing the runway. Mayor John Turner met with FAA officials during a trip to Washington, D.C., this spring and a representative from the agency traveled to Pendleton in June to meet with city officials.
Although the FAA will no longer provide money for repairs and improvements to the second runway, the administration does offer a five-year period to appeal its decision.
Chrisman said convincing the FAA to reverse their decision will not be easy.
“It’s a hard argument when you’re talking about millions of dollars in maintenance,” he said.
While it isn’t considered the airport’s primary runway, Chrisman said the secondary airstrip is still under frequent use.
The secondary runway actually runs closer to the terminal than the primary one, and for pilots looking to taxi as little as possible it is the best choice.
Despite the lack of funding, Chrisman said the secondary runway is in good enough condition that it can continue to handle air traffic for the next five years without federal upkeep.
If the FAA decides to make its decision permanent in 2023, Chrisman said the city would be faced with a decision on whether to use its own money for maintenance, or to close the runway entirely.
It isn’t the first time the Pendleton airport has been forced to close a runway.
Chrisman said the airport had six runways when it was an airbase during World War II. The airport had three runways as recently as 2013, but the FAA declined to continue fund the third one and it was converted to a taxiway.