A revitalized airport advisory board met for the first time in years this weekend, outlining high hopes for the future of the Allen County Regional Airport.
That includes an interest in building more hangars, the possibility of locating an air museum at the site and developing a comprehensive strategic plan.
Jonathon Goering, director of economic development with Thrive Allen County, has taken the lead on airport redevelopment on the county’s behalf. He’s been working with county and airport leaders to pursue grants for numerous projects over the past two years.
The county recently was approved for a $477,000 grant to repaint the runway and make other improvements. A consulting firm also is working on a plan for industrial development on property surrounding the airport.
The increased interest in airport development led to the renewal of an advisory board, with several aviation enthusiasts asked to gather and share their expertise, experience and thoughts for future development.
“There’s a lot of interest in maintaining the airport, for industrial development and for making it a place that drives economic development in Allen County,” Goering said.
Many of those appointed to the board are pilots. One member is a crop duster who uses the airport as a launch point.
Another member, Vince Hill, of Bucyrus, owns a hangar and several planes he keeps at the airport. He took the lead at Saturday’s meeting and will likely be a spokesperson for the group, Goering told commissioners in a report on Tuesday.
“It’s really exciting,” Goering said. “I look forward to seeing what this board decides.”
THE ALLEN County airport has a number of features that make it attractive to pilots, Goering said.
An average of about 45 planes will take off or land at the runway each day, Goering noted.
At the top of the list of advantages is the length of the runway — 5,500 feet. That’s longer than most airports in the region and makes it more appealing for larger aircraft.
There aren’t many impediments such as buildings or towers, so it’s easy for pilots to land and take off.
The airport also is competitive for fuel prices, which is another incentive. The airport offers both fuel trucks and a self-service fueling station; most airports offer one or the other but not both, Commission Chairman Jerry Daniels noted.
There’s a waiting list of at least six plane owners who want hangar space, Goering and commissioners said.
Typically, the county builds and owns hangars to rent to pilots. Most plane owners will store planes at their hangar, but there’s also a need for overnight hangar use for pilots just passing through.
The county also can lease property for someone to build their own hangar, as is the case with Hill. Another pilot is interested in such an arrangement.
“We rent every hangar we build, soon after completion,” Daniels noted.
Commissioners expressed interest in exploring that issue further.
The advisory board also discussed a proposal from the American Flight Museum, located at the Topeka Regional Airport. The director wants to establish a satellite museum at the Allen County airport.
Another issue discussed by the new advisory board is the need for a comprehensive strategic plan that would give county leaders a framework and timeline for project development.
Commissioner David Lee attended Saturday’s meeting and discussed some of the topics raised by the advisory board, including fuel sales.
“I thought it was a very good first meeting,” Lee said.
THE ADVISORY board will meet at 3 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month.
Members include airport manager Robert Poydack of Chanute, Vincent Hill and Megan Hill of Bucyrus, Matt Orth of Marion, Scott Tholen of Moran, Tyson Jelinek of Iola, Derek McCall of Humboldt, Lorenzo Jensen of Iola and Goering.