From airplane graveyard to ADOT's Airport of the Year

By Caroline Carpenter / ADOT Communications

Pinal Airpark was once known as an airport graveyard that stored old jets, along with conducting military training and government operations. Today, the Marana airport has been resurrected thanks to a new lease and grant funding. Because of its progress, ADOT recently honored Pinal Airpark as 2016 Airport of the Year.

The airport has overcome many challenges. It’s working to become more accessible to public aviation and become compliant with FAA requirements. Improvements include runway rehabilitation and adopting a master plan. A $2.4 million investment in pavement upgrades was funded by Pinal County and the State Aviation Fund.

The Airport of the Year award recognizes Pinal Airpark for dramatically improving its runway and taxiway pavement. The pavement's poor condition had affected the airport’s eligibility for federal and state grant funds for capital improvements. Better pavement also means a safer environment for planes to take off and land.

Pinal Airpark

Pinal Airpark

Pinal Airpark Director Jim Petty said, “All the elements needed for this effort fell into place after many years of not being able to address and cure the issues. It took county leadership, new ownership of the tenant company that held the lease, many hours of negotiation, and the guidance of the FAA and ADOT Aeronautics.”

Because of an exclusive lease, the airpark was known to be unwelcoming to general aviators. Now, pilots as well as tourists are encouraged to visit.

Petty wants everyone to appreciate Pinal Airpark’s history. It was once a training ground for pilots in World War II and the Korean conflict. Old planes are still retired to the airpark, and it’s still home to a commercial aircraft storage facility that provides maintenance and repair.

ADOT’s Aeronautics Group within the Multimodal Planning Division accepts applications and nominations for the Airport of the Year. The Aeronautics Group looks at accomplishments in community relations, management, maintenance, programs and innovation.