Although none are scheduled, airport prepares for international flights

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record

One of the gates being planned at Will Rogers World Airport will be bigger than others have been so far in Oklahoma City, Director Mark Kranenburg said Thursday.

The reason – being able to receive international flights – likely won’t be realized for several years, he told members of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Commission, but it’s better to have a long-range vision than to miss opportunities for reacting too late.

In 2015, the Oklahoma City Airport Trust announced plans to expand the airport terminal to include an updated, streamlined security checkpoint, public observation gallery, and increased shopping and dining amenities. The $86 million project is being driven by the need for more capacity – the airport recorded a record number of travelers in 2017, and projections suggest the numbers will keep growing with Oklahoma City’s population.

The expansion initially included four new gates with room set aside for six more as needed. Oklahoma-based architectural and engineering firm Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates won the contract and partnered with the Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum firm, which has worked on more than 350 major aviation terminal projects around the world.

Even if Will Rogers doesn’t start receiving international flights of its own soon, Kranenburg said, it still must be able to handle diversions for medical, mechanical and weather emergencies. And those flights tend to be wide-bodied aircraft. And due to new federal laws about how long passengers can be held waiting on planes, they need somewhere comfortable to disembark, possibly for hours at a time. If those passengers are from out of the country, they must be kept segregated from domestic traffic.

“But we also want to position ourselves to one day be able to handle international arrivals of our own … even if it is many years down the road,” he said, adding that space will be needed for Customs and additional security.

Kranenburg said airport officials are still working on estimated costs with the engineer – he cited a figure of $89 million. Bids will go out before the end of the year, timed to avoid construction staffing conflicts with other major projects in the city, he said.

In the meantime, the airport’s cargo building has already been demolished to make room for expansion on the east. The center of the terminal, marked by its primary elevator bank, will shift in that direction, giving the airport a slightly unbalanced look until that work is completed, he said.

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