WATSONVILLE — At the end of a short flight on Tuesday to show off Watsonville Municipal Airport’s newly resurfaced runways, Airport Manager Rayvon Williams said that pilots are judged on every aspect of their performance while in the air.
“But most of all on their landing,” he said, just before a feather-smooth touchdown.
Williams took to the air to show this newspaper the runway resurfacing project that closed the airport in May, as crews worked around the clock to fill 90,000 linear feet of cracks, seal the surface and reapply the markings.
The project was funded by a $1.2 million grant by the FAA, which will also pay for upgraded signage and runway lights, with work to begin later in the summer, Williams said.
The work started when the airport closed the longer 20 runway on May 6. It reopened on May 23. Runway 27 was closed on May 9, and reopened six days later.
The fact that the massive project “landed” in such a short time period was a testament to a flurry of planning that included securing the grant, finding a contractor and working with city administrators, Williams said.
He also had to coordinate with large companies such as Driscoll’s and Well-Pict that fly out of the airport, as well as the airport tenants.
“These are businesses that rely on aircraft moving in an out of here,” he said. “Then we had to set the expectations of the tenants, and that was a big one because basically you’re going to land lock 218 aircraft that aren’t going to be able to move for a certain period of time.”
The quick work also came thanks to contractor Q&D Construction, which offered to expedite the work by scheduling round-the-clock shifts. This step required alerting neighbors that the work would be occurring.
“I feel that we lived up to our commitment to the tenants and users,” Williams said. “That was the prime directive throughout.”
The last time the Watsonville Municipal Airport repaved the entire length of its main runway was in 1986.
The unusual amounts of rain that fell through May put a kibosh on hopes to finish early, Williams said.
“I wanted to beat it by a week, but it became very clear with the weather we weren’t going to do it,” he said.
Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker said he saw the upgrades develop in real time, as he visited the strip while workers toiled away.
He said the runway revitalization further promotes the City’s ongoing push to improve the businesses, housing opportunities and atmosphere around the area.
“I think there’s a lot of untapped potential around the airport property,” Huffaker said. “I think it has the benefit of pulling people both from Watsonville and from Mid-County who are tired of making the commute to Santa Cruz to go out for a meal. We see a big opportunity of expanding commercial opportunities in and around the airport area.”
Beer Mule, which opened in mid-March in a former WWII-era building, was the latest addition to the sprouting district. Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine and Mr. Z’s Crepes and Teas will soon move in next door to the tap house.
Additionally, Santa Cruz Cider Company is expected to open up in June next door to Elkhorn Slough Brewing Co. on nearby Hangar Way, and a sizable housing project in a vacant lot at 221 Airport Blvd. will begin construction next year.