BRIGHAM CITY -- There was a day when Brigham City Airport was little more than an emergency landing strip where small planes could land in a pinch.
Today, with the recent completion of a major runway expansion project, the city-owned airport is a regional Class C-II airport that could accommodate scheduled service flights in the future.
"It was our field of dreams," said Bruce Leonard, airport manager. "First, we got the runway, then the jets and, finally, the users."
The runway was 5,500 feet long and 75 feet wide in 1981, he said. Expansion was first considered in the mid-1980s to accommodate flights for a local business.
Thiokol Chemical Corporation in Promontory had its own paved runway for its corporate jets, but the company needed the property for a planned expansion. It approached the city about flying into Brigham City Airport, but doing so required a longer runway and the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration.
In the process, the city got good news: This project would be eligible for a federal grant covering 95 percent of the cost of expansion if the airport could document enough usage to justify the need.
That is when another local business stepped in to help make that happen.
Leonard said Flying J was based in Brigham City and the company had just merged with Husky Oil. Then-owner Jay Call upgraded the company's aircraft to jets.
Within six months, Flying J was flying in and out of Brigham City Airport enough times to help meet FAA requirements for federal funding.
However, the city was not done proving itself. To get the project approved, the city also had to do an environmental study and get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The first phase of expansion initially lengthened the runway to 7,500 feet.
But then Morton International bought the old American Greetings building and started bringing in heavy jets loaded with freight.
The city went back to the FAA, Leonard said. At that time, further expansion fit perfectly into the FAA's long-term plan to upgrade the airport to a regional-size airport.
So in 2003, the city once again went through an environmental impact study and the mitigation required to obtain approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Three years later, the city had the approval.
In the years since, the runway length was increased to 8,900 feet and the width to 100 feet. The parallel taxi lane was extended, buildings were relocated to make room for the runway, and the runway safety area was improved.
Right now, Brigham City Airport has a runway with the length and strength to handle the landings of a 737 jet. And, Leonard said, the addition of a 2-inch overlay on the asphalt will make it possible to land a 757 in Brigham City.
Another possibility in the future is the addition of scheduled flight service similar to what has just been started at the Provo Airport.
However, before this can take place, the city would have to upgrade the airport to accommodate passengers and meet security requirements.
The airport will also need to upgrade the airport's navigational aids so pilots can land safely during inclement weather.
How quickly this takes place will depend largely on use of the airport. It could still be years before those improvements are necessary.
A public committee has been established to create a master plan for future expansion projects.
In all, Leonard said, Brigham City has contributed $1.3 million for airport expansion since 1983. FAA grants have reached a total of $31,688,756, with state contributions of $1,288,741.
The completion of the most recent renovations has been a boon to area businesses and will be key to future growth and development.
Leonard said businesses looking for prospective building sites are typically looking for interstate access, rail lines and/or airport services.
"That airport serves all three."