Improvements are coming to the Reno-Stead Airport. Reconstruction of the east to west runway will start in March.

Brian Kulpin with the Reno-Tahoe International Airport says it's been more than two decades since the last reconstruction of the main runway at the Reno-Stead Airport. He says thanks to a $21 million grant from the FAA, improvements are coming soon.

“They'll be excavating that runway and then they'll replace the pavement and we believe that we'll have operational pavement according to the schedule by our contractor by July 3rd,” said Kulpin.

Meaning as long as construction crews stay on schedule, the runway will be ready for use two months prior to the start of the National Championship Air Races.

“We did this exact same runway, the exact same project in 1993, there was a huge air race that took place that year, 150,000 fans, bigger than they get now, so we know how to get this project done,” said Kulpin.

A smoother runway isn't just important for air race pilots, the project’s completion is also necessary for visiting airplanes and the 200 aircraft based in Stead.

Pilot Scott Seher says the runway has become a safety concern for small aircraft like tail draggers. He says the wheel in the rear can get stuck in the crevices on the runway, creating a dangerous situation for the pilot and the aircraft.

“It causes some damage and we have to repair them on occasion on this airplane, I’ve had the tail wheel mechanism break three times,” said Seher. “At high speed when you set the tail down that's where you get the damage, at slow speeds you don't get the damage, it's just an irritant because it's a rough ride."

Seher says once repaving of the runway is complete this summer, landing and takeoff should be smooth sailing for planes of all sizes.

During reconstruction, visiting aircraft and BLM firefighters will operate their planes on the airport’s second runway. The air attack base recorded 90 flights per day at the height of the last fire season.