Iowa City Municipal Airport awarded two grants and installs flight-training simulator

With the help of two grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and a new flight-training simulator, the Iowa City Municipal Airport continues to make improvements to its facility and maintain safety.


Hannah Kinson

An airplane is seen at the Iowa City Municipal Airport on Monday, March 2, 2020. Around 90 different aircraft, for both private and business use, are housed at the airfield. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan)

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

The Iowa City Municipal Airport recently received two grants to make improvements to its facility and installed a new flight-training simulator to better serve the pilots in the community.

One of the grants from the Federal Aviation Administration totaled $373,748, which would go toward removing trees on the airport’s property, while the other totals $105,000 for redoing 2,500 feet of one of the runways to maintain structural integrity.

The grants will go toward multiple phases of the airport’s obstruction-mitigation project, said Iowa City Municipal Airport Manager Michael Tharp. The ongoing project involved airport officials working with owners of property surrounding the airport to prevent trees from blocking the runway approach, he said.

The second grant will go toward the airport’s project of re-marking the runways, Tharp said. The airport will change the markings at the end of runway 25 to increase its landing distance, he said.

“If you have things encroaching into the runway approach zones, it’s a safety issue for pilots; it’s a safety issue for people on the ground,” Tharp said. “These approaches are used both at night and during the day, so if there are things in the approach path that pilots can’t see, that becomes a safety factor.”

The airport can continue to be as efficient as possible when it comes to what aircraft can utilize it and what kind of conditions the runways are usable in with the grant money, he said.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, praised the new grants in a February press release.

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“The Iowa City Municipal Airport plays a critical role in fueling economic development throughout the region, allowing the community to continue to grow,” Loebsack said in the prepared statement. “I am pleased that the Iowa City Municipal Airport is receiving this competitive funding, which will help the airport expand, while remaining safe.”

The Redbird Flight Training simulator, an FAA-approved simulator, was purchased for the airport with the help of local pilots, said Matt Wolford, general manager of JetAir, the airport operator.

Pilots are able to record training time for instrument flight through the use of the simulator, he said. A simulator allows pilots to still do required training even with less-than-ideal conditions outside.

The simulator is available to the public and can be used on airport tours to show high schoolers and college students what it’s like to fly a plane, in addition to acting as a tool for pilots, Wolford said. It’s a good way to continue to spark interest in aviation and try to combat a shortage of pilots, he said.

At the airport there is an active pilot-training program, and when people are learning to fly in the winter, they may not be able to get in the air every day, Wolford said.

“It’s a valuable tool for somebody who’s trying to learn to fly, but it’s also a valuable tool to attract people into the airport because it’s not something you can find at any airports within at least an hour drive from here,” Wolford said.

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