Tampa, Fla. — Michael Baker International and Titusville Cocoa Airport Authority (TICO) were recently recognized with the Florida Airports Council (FAC) J. Bryan Cooper Environmental Award for General Aviation Airports for its safety area improvements to the Merritt Island Airport Runway 11-29, in Brevard County, Florida.

Merritt Island Airport runway improvement. Photo: Aero Photo

“TICO, the owner and operator of Merritt Island Airport, challenged Michael Baker to design a runway improvement project that would not only mitigate the unavoidable environmental impacts but also help improve the ailing Banana River,” said Mariben Andersen, an environmental manager in Michael Baker International’s Aviation practice. “Michael Baker is renowned for our emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, along with fostering a culture of innovation to solve complex problems. This is why we are so honored to be part of this award with TICO as it represents the concerted efforts of a team of airport engineers demonstrating how ‘We Make a Difference’ as environmental stewards who also promote safety.”

Striking the balance between safety and environmental protection was the top priority during the runway safety area improvements project at Merritt Island Airport. The airport’s 3,601-foot runway sits on a peninsula surrounded by the Banana River Aquatic Preserve, and between 1988 and 2014 experienced 34 incidents involving airplanes rolling off the runway and some into the river, resulting in aircraft damage and minor injuries.

Michael Baker developed a project that included a shoreline stabilization design to stop erosion and sediment deposition into the river – effectively improving water quality. To further help with natural resource conservation, a seagrass platform was built by filling a hole in the river near the airport, and a 25-acre mosquito impoundment wetland mitigation island was purchased and enhanced by connecting it to the river and installing native plant life. Construction of the runway safety area also minimized the likelihood of an airplane crash and potential fuel spills into the river.

“Airport designers – especially those embedded into a natural environment or shoreline – must be cognizant of the negative impact that improvements can have on the natural surroundings,” said Michael Powell, chief executive officer of Titusville Cocoa Airport Authority. “Due to the unique positioning of our runway, as we embarked on this project, we were dually aware that it must not only aid in passenger safety, but also have limited negative impact on the environment.”

The team was presented the FAC J. Bryan Cooper Environmental Award at the 47th FAC Annual Conference and Exposition in Bonita Springs on July 20, 2016.