A giant “X” marks the spot where general aviation pilots cannot currently land their planes at the Santa Barbara Airport while crews work to repair one of three runways.
Twenty-year-old asphalt will be removed and replaced during the pavement-rehabilitation project for runway 15R-33L after airport officials received a Federal Aviation Administration grant this year to complete the much-needed work.
Construction crews this week finished removing the existing surface from the runway closest to the airport-adjacent Goleta Slough, and began a phase of paving work that was expected to last through Friday, according to airport engineer Leif Reynolds.
The 4,184-foot runway closed to air traffic last month, and wasn’t expected to reopen until the project is complete in January, he said.
The two other airport runways — one used by jet and turbo-prop aircraft and the other by smaller, general aviation single- and multi-engine aircraft — are not affected by the closure.
Santa Barbara Airport records show the 15R-33L runway catered to about 205 takeoffs and departures for the month of December last year.
This week marked a halfway point in the project, which had been in the works for a year or so as airport officials secured funding.
On Wednesday, large trucks delivered 21 loads of specially mixed asphalt to the site of the $1.7 million project, which was being handled by Granite Construction.
Reynolds said crews spent six weeks designing and testing the “asphalt job-mix formula” — the most important part of the entire project.
“You have to develop a recipe for it,” he said, comparing the mix to the much less stressful task of baking cookies. “In asphalt, if they botch the job, they don’t get paid. We want the new asphalt to stick. So far so good.”
Reynolds said one paving phase would remain after this week, noting that the airport’s main runway would be closed all next week from midnight to 5 a.m. for further paving.