With a little more than 12 hours until the first flight is scheduled to land, the City of Williston has received final approval from the FAA for XWA to begin operations.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, even as the City offered statements reassuring the public that things at XWA were going as planned, rumors still swirled claiming that issues at the site would prevent operations from commencing on Oct. 10.
City Administrator David Tuan spoke with the Williston Herald on Tuesday evening to give some clarification on the last-minute activities taking place at the site. He explained the the FAA was completing flight checks on the runway, which had to occur last minute due to operational issues with the craft used to do the testing. Tuan stated that the final “go/no go” from the FAA would probably be given sometime on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
The Herald spoke with Tuan on Wednesday morning to get an update on the progress of the final preparations, which included some grating work along the runway. Tuan said crews worked through the night to get the work done ahead of the coming snow, and that inspectors were happy with how things were looking.
“They’re pretty happy. They’re confident we’re on top of what we need to be to get our certificate,” he explained. “That typically comes at the last minute, so they’ll issue that sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. But at this point, it’s just final touch ups here and there that we’re working on, so we’re good to go.”
Tuan said TSA and airline agents were already at XWA getting set up in the terminal in preparations for tomorrow’s opening. He added that he did not anticipate any problems with the weather preventing operations from commencing, as most of the work that would be impacted by moisture was completed during the night. There is still work being done at the site, he said, but the work continuing does not affect airport operations.
“I want the community to know too, that there will be work going on for probably a couple weeks,” Tuan said. “This snow will come and go, and then it’ll dry out again. There’s a ton of stuff we’ll do next spring, like seeding and things like that that we didn’t get finished. So, not to be surprised if they see some of that. Nothing is perfectly finished, but the important thing right now is to operate.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the final flight departed from Sloulin Field International Airport, ending 72 years of service to the Williston region. Mayor Howard Klug, along with City Commissioners Chris Brostuen and Tate Cymbaluk greeted the passengers for United Airlines Flight 4785 to Denver, handing out commemorative coins honoring the last day of operations for the airport. Once the final flight was in the air, airport personnel began shutting the airport down in order to transition equipment and materials to XWA in preparation for the first flight into the new airport.
As of 7:46 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, Tuan shared with the Williston Herlad that the FAA had granted the Airport Operating Certificate to the Williston Basin International Airport. This now means that XWA is officially ready to commence operations.