Bowers Field Runway 7-25 closed

Mathilde Angeledei, Staff Reporter

In the fall of 2017, runway 7-25 at Bowers Field Airport in Ellensburg was closed indefinitely. Last month, Kittitas County decided to close the runway permanently.

Bowers Field Airport is used by CWU Aviation. The Aviation Department has 265 students, 165 of which are flight majors and 100 management majors. The  program accounts for more than 90 percent of flights at Bowers Field, according to the Daily Record.

Early this year, Kittitas County, the caretaker and owner of the airport, made the decision to temporally close runway 7-25. The airport has two runways

According to Andrew McIrvin, Director of Flight Operations, the decision from the county is double-edged.

“It is a good decision because the runway served large aircrafts and large aircrafts need to use all the space,” McIrvin said. “There are sections of the runway which are dangerous because they have large potholes. However, for small aircraft like we have, they could still be used because they don’t need all the space.”

This decision has had an impact on aviation program students.

“I understand the decision of the county, but they should have found a solution to replace the runway before [they closed it],” freshman aviation major Jon McMillan said.

Like many students, McMillan has cancelled flights due to wind and being limited to a single runway.

“[The decision] affects the flight operation. When the wind is strong, we like to use the runway that more favors the wind,” McIrvin explained. “There are times we must cancel flight operations because of too high crosswinds and the fact that the orientation of runway 11-29, the one open, is not safe.”

CWU is currently in contact with the county regarding solutions. Currently, the biggest issue is funding. Repairing the runway will cost millions of dollars, according to McIrvin. Kittitas County doesn’t have this money at the moment.

The county is working with the state and extra funds may be available to repair the runway.

“We are working with [Kittitas County], trying to find a solution to reopen runway 7-25 right now,” McIrvin said.

Another solution is to move the program to Yakima Air Terminal. According to Andrew McIrvin, a study involving the county and CWU was completed regarding the logistics of a potential move.

“Moving the program to Yakima airport is possible but it is not a good idea. It will be too  expensive for us and for the students,” McIrvin said. “Logistically, it will be very hard to have students living in a different city than the airport.”

For Liam Nelson, a sophomore aviation management major, this solution will be too difficult for students to be accepted by the university.

“If I have to drive to Yakima every day, it will cost me too much money,” Nelson said. “Also, I know lot of students who don’t have their own car.”