Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Expansion at Louisiana Regional Airport (KREG) expected to meet demand for hangars

Mike Todd, foreground, fuels his Cirrus airplane Wednesday, November 15th, 2017, at the Louisiana Regional Airport while Pat McGee, background, an airport line supervisor, handles the fuel line. Airport officials are planning to add hangars as demand for space at the airport south of Gonzales continues to grow. The expansion area, not pictured, is just to the right of the fuel price sign.

BURNSIDE — More than two years after a 1,000-foot runway extension was completed, Louisiana Regional Airport in Ascension Parish is closing in on building a long-planned hangar addition to meet growing demand for space, airport officials said.

The general aviation airport south of Gonzales is in line for more than $3 million in state and federal dollars this year and next to clear a 7-acre site, build an apron and other infrastructure and then construct 16 T-hangars used to house the smaller airplanes.

Janet Gonzales, general manager of the airport off La. 44 and Loosemore Road just northeast of Pelican Point subdivision, said continued growth in the region have individual aircraft owners and companies that support the region's chemical industry constantly looking for a hangar at the 180-acre facility located between the commercial airports in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The airport, which has more than 100 aircraft based there, has a waiting list for 45 hangars, she said. 

"We've been out of space for a very, very long time and people have been chomping at the bit for a long time to be able to come out here," Gonzales said.

The more than $4 million runway extension completed in April 2015 — which lengthened the runway from 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet as well as extended a corresponding taxiway — made the airport more attractive to corporate aircraft for use in all weather conditions.

In July 2015, the Ascension-St. James Airport and Transportation Authority, the entity that operates the airport, purchased 28.3 acres of woods along the southern border of the runway and taxiway for $677,567 to make space for more aircraft and operations.

Since then, officials have been moving toward the hangar expansion. As a first phase, the airport plans to develop the first seven acres that are essentially where the current asphalt and concrete end.

The planned T-hangars will accommodate single-engine and some twin-engine planes with wingspans of no more than 41 feet, but the 7-acre addition will also have room for a few larger commercial hangars.

Gonzales said airport officials want to attract long-term land lease tenants who will build their own larger commercial hangars. The airport would build the base for an access road to these hangars.

Rick Webre, a parish homeland security official who is chairman of the Ascension-St. James Airport and Transportation Authority, added those larger hangars could house private jets or aircraft avionics and maintenance shops.

The airport appears poised to get through a key phase of permitting in its wetlands mitigation effort through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ricky Boyett, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, said with the mitigation completed, the Corps is working on writing the final permit and developing any special conditions it will require. The airport will then have to agree to those conditions before the permit can be issued.

"We're ready to bid," Gonzales added.  

Gonzales and Webre said land clearing, base and apron construction could be completed as soon as six months once the project starts, depending on the weather.

Earlier this month, officials in Livingston Parish took a major step for a new $32 million airport in Satsuma with the donation of 242 acres of land, but Gonzales said she didn't see the future airport as competition that would diminish the demand for hangar space in Ascension.

She noted that the Federal Aviation Administration has a standard of having a general aviation airport within a 30-minute drive of a residence.

"So as Livingston develops, they'll have their own market," she said.

During a recent interview with airport officials, Mike Todd, 60, of Baton Rouge, just happened to come in for a landing in his single-engine Cirrus propeller driven plan after a morning cruise.  

Todd, who was fueling up near where the new hangar expansion is planned, said he lives off Highland Road, uses his plane mostly for personal travel and likes the Burnside facility for its location and because it's a more simple airport.

He added that, because of the location, where he lives and the times he uses his plane, he avoids rush-hour traffic. 

"Coming out here, I'd always be going the opposite way of the traffic, where in Baton Rouge, I'd have to be going through the traffic," said Todd, who is a sales engineer.

Todd said he was "very lucky" to even get a hangar back in 2013 in light of the current waiting list and welcomed the hangar expansion.   

"I think it's great. I think it's about time," he said.

Original article can be found here ➤

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