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New jet bridges on order at MSO as terminal project advances

Missoula International Airport Jet.jpg
Missoula International Airport Terminal Construction
Posted at 8:21 AM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 15:54:06-04

MISSOULA — When the new terminal opens at Missoula International Airport 18 months from now, passengers will find more room to sit while aircraft will have more room to park.

The Missoula County Airport Authority on Tuesday closed the purchase of four new jet bridges, along with air and ground power units. The $3.9 bid hit their airport’s budget and will enable the facility to cut emissions by reducing aircraft run time.

“These are add-ons to the jet bridges,” said Brian Ellestad, the airport’s deputy director. “These are what an airplane would plug into to get ground power. Rather than burn jet fuel to power the aircraft, they’d run off the electricity we provide. It’s a fossil fuel savings.”

In a special board meeting held to meet FAA deadlines, the airport agreed to submit an application for a Voluntary Airport Low Emissions grant. The grant would help fund the new air and ground power units.

    “Between the ground power and air, it was $711,000,” said Ellestad. “We hope, if we’re successful in getting the grant, that we’ll get that paid from the grant rather than our own operating budget.”

    Missoula International Airport Terminal Construction
    Crews complete the foundation work on Phase 1 of the new passenger terminal in this file photo. The steel is now up and the facility is on track to open in early 2022.

    Construction on the new terminal is quickly advancing, with the steel now in place and the floors being set. When the facility opens in early 2022, it will include the four new jet bridges ordered on Tuesday.

    For long-time passengers flying from Missoula, the new facility will give travelers more room to sit and aircraft more room to park. The old terminal had three jet bridges, though that was reduced to two once construction on the new terminal began.

    “The new building will have four jet bridges, and when we do the next phase, it’ll have three or four more jet bridges,” said Ellestad. “Our plan is to go from three bridges and seven total parking spots to hopefully seven or eight jet bridges with eight or nine parking spots.”

    The existing jet bridges will likely be repurposed for use in Phase 2 of the terminal project, which will include replacing the existing facility. It will also enable the airport to operate seamlessly once the new terminal opens and the switch is made.

    “Logistically, it’ll allow us to keep operating from our current building and do a clean cut over to the new building with four jet bridges, and potentially save our old jet bridges when we do Phase 2,” Ellestad said. “At that point we could repurpose them.”

    Tim Damrow, the airport’s projects director, said the $3.9 million bid price was right on budget. Once the facility comes online, the new bridges will enhance airport function and operations.

    “In the new airport, there will be seven or eight boarding bridges that each have a holding room associated with them,” he said. “It’s not parking two or three aircraft in one gate area. We’ll now have a dedicated gate space available for them.”