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Obstruction removal project underway at Yeager

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Work is nearing completion on the first phase of a three-year, $16 million earthmoving project to remove a knoll in the Northgate/Coal Branch Heights area that lies in the path of aircraft departing from Charleston's Yeager Airport.

S&E Clearing and Hydro-seeding of Varney was awarded a $458,000 contract to remove trees and brush from the vicinity of the knoll, and to seed grass in disturbed areas pending the start in September of the earthmoving portion of the project. Airport officials said S&E's work is expected to be complete by the end of this week.

Next week, the construction committee of Yeager's governing board is scheduled to review bids for the erosion control, storm water management and earthwork phases of the contract.

During the past two years, the Charleston airport has bought seven homes and more than 40 parcels of unoccupied land in the vicinity of the knoll to create an 18-acre construction zone.

As much as 120 feet of overburden will be shorn from the knoll, although the average cut will be about 50 feet. In all, more than 1.2 million cubic feet of earth will be removed from the knoll, and used as fill elsewhere in Northgate.

Located off the south end of Yeager's main runway, the promontory is being removed to eliminate Federal Aviation Administration climb-out restrictions on aircraft departing the Charleston airport. Aircraft are now required to gain elevation at faster-than-normal rates immediately after takeoff to provide an extra margin of safety in the event of engine trouble after departing the runway.

To meet the FAA restriction, commercial aircraft on some of Yeager's longer nonstop flights, such as those to Houston, Dallas or Atlanta, sometimes have to bump passengers to reduce weight, particularly on extremely hot days when engines run less efficiently.

Airlines serving Yeager would save about $2 million a year, and hundreds of passengers would avoid being bumped, by having the climb-out restriction removed. Removal of the restriction also makes Yeager a more attractive candidate for long-haul flights to cities not currently served by nonstop flights from Charleston.

Funding for the project comes from the FAA's Airport Improvement Program.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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