Airport budget

READY FOR FLIGHT — Stratolaunch Systems’ hanger, built to house the largest airplane built, sits on Taxiway B at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The airport has a Federal Aviation Administration grant to extend the taxiway to provide more flight line property for such buildings.

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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