FACT SHEET: Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport Runway Expansion
December 15, 2014
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  • Current and Future Runway Lengths

    Runway 3-21 is currently 7,005’ long. The 2,200’ runway extension will result in a 9,205’ long by 150’ wide paved runway with a maximum load capability of 120,000 pounds. ·The 2,200’ extension is being added to the end of Runway 21 – the southwest end ·For reference, a NATO standard runway is 8,000’


    Provides the ability to continue safe flight operations in high density altitude situations.

    High density altitude corresponds to reduced aircraft performance ·Increased takeoff distance ·Reduced rate of climb ·Increased True Airspeed (but same Indicated Airspeed) on approach and landing ·Increased landing roll distance

    There are three important factors that contribute to high density altitude: ·Airport Elevation ·Temperature ·Humidity

    Airtankers typically operate in high density altitude conditions at Alamogordo Airport ·Elevation is 4,197’ above mean sea level ·Mid-day temperatures during the fire season are often over 100o F

    Airtankers normally operate with a heavy load of slurry reducing their performance ·Increased takeoff distance ·Reduced rate of climb ·Increased landing roll distance (if landing while loaded with slurry)

    Why Now?

    The Next Generation Airtankers, now coming into operation, are primarily swept-wing multi-engine jet aircraft. They require longer runways than the straight-wing, propeller legacy airtankers. Swept-wing jets have higher takeoff and landing speeds resulting in longer takeoff and landing rolls.


    The total cost of the runway extension depends on the bids submitted by potential contractors but will be between $6 and $7 million dollars. The project is broken into two phases – dirt work and paving. The dirt work phase has been awarded for $1.8 million.


    The Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport is owned by the City of Alamogordo and is an FAA financed airport. For that reason, airport improvements are funded on a 90/5/5 basis:

    90% by the FAA, 5% by the State of New Mexico and 5% by the City of Alamogordo. All three parties have approved the funding and money has been budgeted for the entire project.


    The construction schedule is influenced by a number of factors including when the money is made available, the fire fighting season and the time required for construction. Construction of the dirt work phase begins in December 2014 and will be completed in the spring of 2015. The paving phase should begin at the end of the fire season and be completed by the end of 2015.

    Is the runway extension required for the operation of Regional Jets?

    No. The current runway length is adequate for the safe operation of all RJs, however, a longer runway is always more desirable.

    How was this accomplished?

    This has been a project that has taken almost 4 years of effort. It was initiated by the Airport Advisory Board based on their understanding of the changing needs of the aerial firefighting industry. As one of the country’s primary airtanker and dispatch bases, the runway length needed to be increased to maintain the viability of the base.

    The AAB began a campaign of informing the appropriate individuals and parties of the requirement. The budget priorities of the city, state and the FAA were dramatically changed after fully understanding the value of accomplishing the construction of the extension. While the three parties came to agreement in providing the project funding, the USDA Forest Service also concurrently accomplished a national airtanker base study. Their result was to continue Alamogordo’s status as an airtanker base and dispatch center, based partially on the commitment to extend the runway length.

    Neptune Aviation presence at ALM

    Neptune Aviation, the world’s largest aerial firefighting company, has announced their decision to base their fleet of legacy P-2 aircraft at ALM. They will conduct all of their major inspections and maintenance on the P-2s in their current hangar located on the airport. To support their future plans, they are currently making improvements and modifications to their hangar in order to accommodate BAe-146 and C-23 Sherpa aircraft. In addition, they have moved an FAA maintenance certificate to ALM in order to accomplish maintenance on a wide variety of non-company owned aircraft. Their intention is to be the “anchor tenant” at ALM to increase the business base of the airport and community. A significant factor that lead to their making these strategic corporate planning decisions was the runway extension project.

    Future Airport Improvements

    There are two additional significant improvement projects that are directly linked with the runway extension: runway strengthening and the airtanker base fire retardant load pit upgrades. The runway strengthening consists of grinding a portion of the asphalt surface off of the current runway then adding an overlay. It is required to bring the load bearing capacity of the entire runway up to the level that will handle all contemplated types of next generation airtankers as well as the Air National Guard operated C-130J airtankers – all operating at their maximum load capability. This project is already well into the planning and coordination phases with all three funding agencies.

    However, the airtanker base fire retardant load pit upgrade project does not fall under the FAA program. For that reason, funds need to be obtained and allocated by the USDA in order to accomplish this needed improvement. An airtanker base requires three primary components: an appropriate runway with associated airport infrastructure; operations facilities including offices, dispatch, fire retardant storage and fire retardant mixing; and fire retardant load pits. The necessary improvements to the first two have now been accomplished. Only the third, the long-planned upgrade to the fire retardant load pits, is still required.

    Information from city of Alamogordo