SPRINGFIELD — About $400,000 in grant money will be spent to complete a new master plan at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport — its first update in 16 years.
City Commissioners approved the application of a $400,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration at last week’s meeting for master planning services at the 1,800-acre airport at 1251 W. Blee Road. Commissioners also approved a $20,000 state grant, meaning the city will pay about $20,000 in local money for the study.
Dayton-based Woolpert, Inc. was also approved to perform the study at a cost of about $400,000. The Sinclair Community College Unmanned Aerial Systems program will also help Woolpert with consulting, Springfield Assistant City Manager and Director of Economic Development Tom Franzen said.
The master plan will update the FAA’s database, making sure it has all correct information, including plotting obstacles and safety zones, Airport Manager Don Smith said.
“That’s about an 18-month process right there,” Smith said.
The airport sees about 30,000 flights per year, including general aviation and commercial flights, Smith said.
A 2014 study from the Ohio Department of Transportation showed the airport has a significant economic impact locally — it directly and indirectly supports as many as 774 jobs and about $36 million in payroll.
Since the previous plan, the Ohio Air National Guard’s F-16 mission left the base, but it has since gained an intelligence mission and another piloting UAVs around the world.
The city’s master plan will be one of the first to examine how the airport will operate with UAS activity, Franzen said.
“We’re right in the middle of it,” Franzen said. “That’s the exciting part of it. We’re on the leading edge.”
The data will be analyzed by Woolpert, Smith said. They’ll also talk with stakeholders — including tenants such as Spectra Jet, Inc., SelectTech Geospatial and Champion City Aviation — about the size of the airport and if it needs to be adjusted.
“We inherited a large airport with large runways,” Smith said. “One of the things about that is it costs money to maintain those runways.”
The plan will show the path to the future, Smith said.
“We look forward to making sure we have an airport in place that meets the customers demands for the next 25 years,” Smith said.
Each year, the airport receives about $150,000 in grant funding from the federal government to make improvements. The city has been saving the money over the last few years — at the FAA’s request — to perform the master plan.
“The money is in the queue and waiting for our application,” Franzen said.
The FAA’s No. 1 priority is keep runways paved, Franzen said. The city is currently making repairs to two deteriorating taxiways after it received nearly $500,000 in grant money this year.
However, they likely won’t get anymore money for paving runways until the master plan is approved, Franzen said.
Room to grow
The master plan will help businesses at the airport expand, Spectra Jet owner Mike Catherwood said. The current $1.3 million facility could triple in size in the future, he said. The company, which opened at the airport in 1998, has about 23 employees. The partnership has been good for both the company and the city, he said.
“We’ve been here a long time and we’ve flourished here,” Catherwood said. “Springfield has treated us very well.”
Spectra Jet, Inc. specializes in repairing both Lear and Challenger jets, many of which are brought to the airport from out of town, Catherwood said.
Springfield was part of the Ohio/Indiana proposal to be one of six sites nationally to test unmanned aircraft in local airspace, but the region wasn’t chosen by the FAA, but has received lots of activity as part of the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex, headquartered in Springfield at Next Edge Applied Research and Technology Park.
Springfield-Beckley is also becoming the airport of choice for high-tech UAS research and testing, Smith said — which will only be enhanced by the master plan.
“That’s what you want to be,” Smith said.
The airport is an outstanding resource and more flights of all kinds are possible, Select Tech Geospatial Executive Director Frank Beafore said.
“We’ve got plenty of room, a two-mile runway, a one-mile runway and a lot of airspace,” Beafore said. “(The airport) has an excellent staff. They really take care of the airport.”
Airport officials are planning to build a total of six T-hangars and four larger box hangars to provide more space due to increasing demand. As many as 55 general aviation planes are already housed at the airport.
The state provided about $500,000 in capital funding for the project. The Springfield Port Authority has pledged to chip in an additional $300,000, while city airport funds, including rental fees, could be used to cover the remainder.
The project was bid recently, but they all came in about 11 percent greater than the engineer’s estimate. The city can’t award anything over 10 percent and had to rebid the project. The bids were opened last week and a contract may be awarded soon, Franzen said.
“Hopefully, we can get somebody started this fall,” Franzen said.
By the numbers
$400,000: Amount of federal grant money being spent to formulate a new master plan at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
$20,000: Local dollars being spent on master plan.
$36 million: The airport’s local economic impact, according to an ODOT study.
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