Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR), Nebraska: Boardings soar in 2013

KEARNEY — Kearney Regional Airport could land $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration funding because enplanements are near the 10,000 mark for a third consecutive year.

“We’re having a great year which shows the community is doing well,” Airport Manager Jim Lynaugh said after August numbers brought total boardings to 8,934 so far this year.

The FAA grants commercial airports with more than 10,000 annual boardings $1 million of enterprise funding for airport improvements. Lynaugh expects to hit the mark by the end of September at this rate.

The total enplanements at this point last year were 8,115, Lynaugh said, and last year was a record year for enplanements at the airport at 5145 Airport Road. Total enplanements at the airport could reach more than 12,000 before 2013 ends, something Lynaugh hopes will become a trend.

“As things are, I’d say we will continue to be around the 12,000-14,000 mark for the next five years,” Lynaugh said. Exceeding 10,000 enplanements does not entitle the airport to any more federal funding than the $1 million.

Lynaugh said the funding comes with two stipulations. It can only be spent on safety-related items for the airfield, and a five-year capital improvements list must be submitted.

The bulk of the $1 million will be spent to refinish the primary and secondary runways in the next few years, Lynaugh said. He said some of the money will also help construct a new hangar and the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Facility that are under construction.

The airport hit the 10,000 milestone in 2009 but failed to do the same in 2010. Boardings in 2011 got a boost over the 10,000 mark when 360 people took hour-long Christmas-season rides over Kearney offered by Otis Air Service for $15 per person.

Enplanements reached record numbers in 2012 with 12,408 boardings and are on par to break that record. The airport offers three nonstop flights to Denver International Airport every day. A 30-passenger plane leaves at 6:30 a.m., and smaller 19-passenger planes depart at 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. every day.

Great Lakes Airlines of Wyoming is contracted by the federal government to serve the airport through the Essential Air Service program. The federal government created the EAS program to subsidize companies willing to serve smaller communities.

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