The Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport was named the 2023 airport of the year on Thursday by the Ohio Aviation Association for its advances in technology.
According to the OAA, the award “is an acknowledgement of airport leadership that has made extraordinary accomplishments” toward advancing its program and/or Ohio aviation. Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development, said the Springfield airport has been working on advanced air mobility, including researching and testing autonomous drones.
Seth Timmerman, Springfield-Beckley airport manager, said the recognition demonstrates the Beckley airport is “leading the charge in the state.” He said he believes the award will show that the airport is using its funding in an important way and could bring other companies to support its cause.
“We’re getting it for all the good work we want to do out here, and hopefully (other companies) want to come out here and be a part of it,” Timmerman said.
Franzen said the airport has been a test site for many technologies, including for home drone delivery of packages from places like Amazon and Walmart. He said this requires a lot of testing before it can become a reality.
“Springfield has kind of become the home for that activity and really impacting aviation across the state, and the opportunities related to this advanced air mobility sector,” Franzen said.
The airport also is the site of a new building being constructed, the National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence (NAAMCE), which will focus on autonomous flight, electrical vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) and electric flight, Franzen said. The eVTOLs are commonly called flying cars.
The center is funded by a $6 million grant from the Department of Defense.
Credit: Bill Lackey
Credit: Bill Lackey
“We’re trying to lead the charge in cutting-edge technology for the whole country,” Timmerman said.
Franzen said the center will be completed in September, and it will be a site for the annual National Advanced Air Mobility Industry Forum, which brings people from all over the U.S.
More than 30 aircraft owners lease space at the airport to allow them to fly, Franzen said.
Timmerman said the airport was also recognized for its record-breaking fuel sales in 2020 — when a majority of flights were grounded. He said the airport helped accommodate guests comedian Dave Chappelle brought to Springfield for his outdoor comedy show in Yellow Springs during the pandemic. He said airport staff also facilitated on-site COVID-19 tests.
“Springfield basically became the central hub where all of those guests were being flown in,” Franzen said. “... It really spoke to their flexibility I think, and trying to meet their customers’ needs, and kind of went above and beyond I think in helping Dave Chappelle and the production group that was setting all that up.”
Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus won the airport of the year award in 2021.
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