MOJAVE — At the midpoint of the fiscal year, the Mojave Air and Space Port’s budget is tracking close to what was approved in June, with a few exceptions, General Manager and CEO Karina Drees said.
The biggest change is the reduction in a Federal Aviation Administration grant to extend Taxiway B to the west. The original goal was for a 1,300-foot extension, but the project approved by the FAA will fund extending it 600 feet.
That grant was approved in August, after the 2018-2019 budget process, at about half what was originally expected. As such, the midyear adjustment was needed to account for the reduced grant.
With the smaller scope, the budget was reduced by $1.155 million in the federal grants category and by $1.3 million in expenses, according to the staff report.
Utilities expenses were also revised upward, with an increase from $300,000 in the approved budget to $340,000 in the revision.
“We are investigating this a little bit to just to try to understand why everything keeps going up,” Drees said.
This category includes electricity, water and sewer, natural gas and the like, everything except telephone and internet. The water bill seems to be the primary driver for the increase, because there has been a change to the rate structure and regular increases, she said.
Director David Evans requested restructuring budget for supplies in the future, as it is something of a catchall category for expenses of less than $5,000 each. This includes such items such as software and fuel for airport vehicles, in addition to office supplies and similar items.
The revision more than doubles the expenses in this category, from $200,000 in the budget as approved to $425,000. This includes planned expenses such as software purchases planned for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“I don’t like that,” Evans said of the inclusion of fuel in the category. “That needs to come to an end as far as I’m concerned.”
He also requested a detailed report about what is included in the category to make up the increase. “I’m sure it’s stuff we’ve talked about and approved; I just need to be reminded,” he said.
The FAA grant approved in August totals $1.36 million of the $1.5 million project to expand the airport’s flight line property, providing more space for new businesses or to expand those already on site.
“It’s really going to provide us with additional growth opportunities,” Drees said at the time. “We have several customers here who need space” and the area may act as an incentive to attract new customers as well.
Taxiway B itself was built in 2004 as a means of creating more flight line property at the airport, which has its origins as a World War II Marine Corps flight training base.
It has since become home to The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing arm which is building the SpaceShipTwo space planes for the commercial space line.
The company’s Final Assembly Integration and Test Hangar, known as FAITH, was the first hangar built on the taxiway in 2011.
The taxiway extension project will extend beyond the hangar, now at the western end of the runway.
Taxiway B is also home to Stratolaunch’s facility, with a 92,000-square-foot hangar for its behemoth mothership, the largest airplane ever built with a wingspan longer than a football field.
It is accompanied by an adjacent 88,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
A project of the late Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, working with Scaled Composites, Stratolaunch is building a massive twin-hulled airplane that hoists a rocket to launch payloads into space.
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