Several improvements that could total about $4.7 million are underway at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, as city and airport officials are seeing growing interest from business traffic at the site.
A $1.2 million project to build 10 new hangars at the airport is nearly complete, and city and airport staff are working to develop a new master plan for the airport’s future. In the meantime, Spectra Jet, an aircraft repair and maintenance firm, has begun work on a potential $3.5 million investment to build additional ramp space and expand a hangar at the business.
“It’s been really active for us over the last 18 to 24 months,” said Don Smith, airport manager.
Information from the Ohio Department of Transportation shows the airport has a significant economic impact in Clark County, directly impacting close to 700 jobs and more than $40 million in payroll.
Indirectly, ODOT estimates the airport is tied to more than 1,450 total jobs and $78.5 million in payroll. Along with recent construction and improvements, local officials have hosted events like an annual Barnstorming Carnival in July to draw more people to the airport.
“We’re trying to raise the awareness of the airport and so many people don’t know it’s here,” said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield
Along with Spectra Jet, the airport also provides a home to various other businesses, including unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer SelectTech Geospatial and Champion City Aviation, which offers flight instruction classes.
The airport sees about 45,000 take-offs and landings a year, Smith said, a figure that’s up moderately from a few years ago when the airport saw closer to 35,000 to 40,000 of those activities.
Along with an increase in activity, the airport is also seeing larger jets fly in and out of the airport. Part of the reason the new hangars were was built to accommodate larger aircraft, Smith said.
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“We made a conscious decision to build larger hangars,” Smith said. “We wanted to attract larger general aviation aircraft to the airport.”
The new hangars were the first built at the airport in the past 50 years, Franzen said. There has been steady demand for the space, he said, and eight of the 10 built are already rented.
It’s possible the city will try to build additional hangars in the future as well, but it’s a difficult project to pay for, Franzen said.
The new general aviation hangars were paid for through a variety of sources, including $500,00 awarded to the city through Ohio’s capital budget process, about $300,000 from the Springfield Port Authority and a reimbursement from the Federal Aviation Administration for about $225,000.
One of the hangars is being made available for Clark State Community College’s precision agriculture program that uses technology such as drones, GPS and other sensors to improve farming efficiency, Franzen said. Sinclair Community College also uses the Springfield airport for its drone program.
Along with attracting more traditional aviation business, the airport also plays an important part of the region’s attempt to become a hub of research for drone technology. Last year, the Air Force Research laboratories and Ohio announced a plan to invest $2.5 million each into research that will allow businesses and researchers to test unmanned aerial vehicles beyond the line of sight.
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