RANTOUL – A pilot landing on the north-south runway of the Rantoul airport one day in June encountered a surprise: The runway suddenly sloped upward.
The man's plane immediately went airborne once again, and the pilot had to make a quick maneuver to complete a safe landing.
The rise in the middle of the north-south runway at the point where it crosses the east-west runway has Illinois Department of Transportation officials so concerned that the village will need to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 between now and December 2006 to repair it.
Rantoul Aviation and Economic Development Director Reed Berger told the village's Economic Development Commission about the problem on Thursday.
Berger said the height between the two runways, which cross in the middle, became uneven when the village repaired them in 1994 and 1995.
"The village didn't want to close down the entire airport while the work took place, so the two runways were upgraded separately," Berger said. "Apparently they weren't upgraded to the same height."
Berger said the difference in height between the two runways is a few inches.
According to Berger, the June mishap was the only recorded one of its kind since the village received the airport from Chanute Air Force base in 1993.
"That north-south runway isn't used as frequently as the east-west runway," Berger said. "Pilots primarily use it when the wind blows in a certain direction."
Since the incident, Berger said, the airport has been informing pilots about the rise on the runway in a radio message that is broadcast to incoming aircraft. But state aviation officials told Berger earlier this week the radio warning isn't sufficient.
"They told me this key safety issue needs to be addressed sooner rather than later," Berger said.
While preliminary estimates to remove the rise in the runway figure to be between $300,000 and $400,000, Berger said he intends to use Rantoul's share of federal and state airport improvement money (about $150,000 a year) to pay for most of it.
Berger said he won't learn until December whether the project will qualify for the federal and state money.
Berger said the remaining $20,000 to $40,000 will be paid for by the village. Berger said he doesn't need village board approval to spend the money because it is already in his budget.
However, spending that money means the planned extension of the east-west runway will need to be delayed at least two more years. The extension is necessary to allow larger jets to land and take off in Rantoul.
"We will have to pay for this project before we begin with the runway extension," Berger said.
If Rantoul gets approval for the federal and state money in December, Berger said construction would take place either in late 2006 or in early 2007.