The first-ever aerobatic box in the area has been created at Grider Field Airport.

A local certified flight instructor suggested that the Bulldog Flight Team apply for an aerobatic box for the Grider Field airspace. Bob Connor, a certified airboss, applied for and was awarded the aerobatic box from the FAA for Grider Field.

Doug Hale, who manages Grider Field, said the box is an imaginary area that extends 2,000 feet east of the runway, is the length of the runway and goes from the surface up to 2,000 feet above the airfield. This box will give the pilots of the Bulldog Flight Team another layer of safety during their occasional practices at Grider Field. It is also safer for any aircraft flying into the airport, Hale said.

Practice times for the aerobatic box began Friday. Typical practice times are estimated at around 20 to 30 minutes; however, the airport will not close or stop servicing pilots during these times.

Pine Bluff Aviation Commission chairman Ken Johnson said at a recent meeting of the commission that he expects the aerobatic box and having the Bulldogs at the airport will significantly benefit Grider Field and bring new people to the area through the flight team’s events.

In other business, financial reports revealed that the airport had a net income of $8,081 despite having expenses that ranged in the five-figure digits. A $2,500 pump for a five-year-old sewer pit that had to be replaced due to deterioration contributed to said expenses.

After receiving a phone bill of $2,951.36, which was significantly higher than the usual $275 bill they are accustomed to, the commission agreed with Hale’s recommendation to hold the bill until an explanation and an adjustment is made by the city.

The commission may consider looking into alternate phone services with interests leaning toward phones powered by the internet instead.

In more pressing news, the status of an asphalt grant from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics that has been on hold because of a lack of ADA funds.

Hale forwarded a grant request letter endorsed by Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington to the FAA, and the commission is awaiting approval of the request and the formal grant offer from the FAA.

The ADA has issued a few emergency grants to airports due to storm damage, and this puts standard grants further behind due to their limited funding available.

Hale said he forwarded some information to the ADA director to help him try to determine if the ADA is getting all of the tax revenue it is due from airport fuel sales. That is the main source of income, Hale said.

Despite funding setbacks within the ADA delaying the approval of one grant, the commission is one step closer to securing an FAA design-only grant that will be used for a taxiway straightening project. Currently, the commission is awaiting an approval letter from the Airport District Office in Fort Worth, Hale said.

The deadline for the FAA design-only grant is time sensitive, according to commission members, with the cut-off date being Aug. 31.

More work is scheduled to occur at the airport, including repairs to hangers that were damaged from a hail storm back in March. A new estimate from the Arkansas Municipal League put damages at $1,407,382.53.

Repairs to 10 large hangers are said to take at least one year to complete. The commission temporarily repaired some of the hangers to prevent further damage until the work can be done.

The Aviation Commission is also seeking out a realtor to help market the armory building that is currently available for rent. Though they have been close to leasing the building in the past, the commission believes that a realtor will increase interest.

Outside of normal business, the commission honored Kenneth Collins during the meeting with a propeller-shaped plaque for his service and dedication to the airport.