The owner of the private Branson Airport is accusing Burns & McDonnell and three other firms of designing and building a $70 million runway foundation that partially collapsed just two years after the facility opened in 2009.
Branson Airport LLC, which operates what’s described as the nation’s only privately developed and operated commercial airport, has filed a lawsuit maintaining that a large section of the runway collapsed in 2011 above a drain designed by Burns & McDonnell, a Kansas City engineering firm.
Also named in the lawsuit filed in Taney County Circuit Court were McAninch Corp. of Iowa, the general contractor; Anderson Engineering of Missouri, a geotechnical firm; and E.T. Archer Corp. of Missouri, which performed preliminary design of storm water drains and other aspects of the project.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages from the four defendants.
“It is not our practice to comment on pending litigation,” Jeff Bourk, the airport’s executive director, said in a statement. “However, it is important to let the general public know that there is no impact on the safety of the Branson Airport.”
According to the lawsuit, Burns & McDonnell designed the foundation, which was supposed to have a useful life of 100 years. The complex project used more than 9 million cubic yards of rock and soil to build a foundation to support a runway in the rugged terrain of the Ozark Mountains.
The 7,140-foot long and 150-foot wide runway itself had been designed to last at least 40 years, and it required thousands of gallons of liquid cement grout to shore up the foundation where the collapse occurred, according to the suit.
“Unfortunately, the airport foundation and other airport improvements require additional and significant repairs and they will require additional and significant repairs in the future,” the lawsuit stated.
The suit says Burns & McDonnell, besides designing the foundation, was charged with overseeing its proper construction and representing the airport owner. Among the other accusations in the lawsuit was the failure by contractors to prevent trees and other organic debris from being included in the fill.
Burns & McDonnell issued the following statement:
“No claim was ever made against Burns & McDonnell related to this grading issue prior to Monday, when we saw the lawsuit for the first time, so we are quite surprised by this. We are proud of the work we did on the Branson Airport, which was a challenging project.
“We obviously disagree with the statements and claims in the lawsuit. Though we cannot comment in detail at this time we can say Burns & McDonnell was not hired for any of the runway soil testing for the airport in Branson. The geotechnical consultant was hired directly by the airport owner, as was the inspector for the earthwork.
“We did prepare the specifications for soil compaction based on the owner’s geotechnical report and those specifications stipulated soil densities and composition of materials contained in the fill. As the lawsuit states, organic material was not permitted in the fill.
“We did not act as the contractor, nor did we have contractual responsibility for inspections of the fill work for this project. We did inspections of the runway paving, the terminal building, hangars and related facilities once that phase of the construction began.”
The airport, which is being represented by the Overland Park law firm of Kuckelman Torline Kirkland Lewis, emphasized the facility continues to operate safely. The Branson Airport is served by Southwest and Frontier airlines, and is projected to serve 140,000 passengers this year.