Saturday, January 19, 2019

Progress 2019: Fremont Municipal Airport (KFET) necessary to community

You don’t have to tell Brian Newton that an airport is important to a community.

“Businesses might not locate or stay here without an airport,” Fremont’s city administrator said.

And businesses mean jobs and money for the community.

That’s one reason why plans are in the works to build a new terminal and aircraft parking apron and, hopefully, add more aircraft hangars at Fremont Municipal Airport, which is on the west side of town.

A 2018 terminal area master plan for the airport lists a variety of plants, stores and offices that now use the facility.

Those businesses include: HyVee Food Store; Costco; Walmart; Menards; Taylor & Martin; ADM; 3M; Fremont Beef; and Oil Gear.

The airport’s importance to the community was outlined in a 2017 presentation to the Fremont City Council by Bob Crain, project manager of aviation services for Burns McDonnell in Kansas City, Missouri, made the presentation.

The presentation contained the following information:

• More than 50 aircraft are based at the airport.

• Each year, the airport has 22,300 operations (aircraft take-offs or landings), according to statistics from FlightAware, a company that tracks pilots’ flight plans.

• Of these operations, 12,200 are by local-area aircraft and 10,200 from visitors. The average stay for out-of-town aircraft is 6.5 hours.

• Visitors — many of whom come to Fremont on business — come from coast to coast to the airport.

Various businesses have aircraft at the airport.

“We have numerous businesses that maintain aircraft out there and those aircraft are an essential part of their business operation,” Newton said.

Newton cites Taylor & Martin, which conducts auctions of semi-trailer trucks and large equipment across the country.

“They load up staff and fly to these auctions every week,” Newton said. “Without an airport in Fremont, we’d be hard-pressed to probably keep that type of business here. Because if we didn’t have an airport, they’d likely locate their employees where they were close to an airport, simply because their business is so intricately tied to the airport.”

Costco poultry plant personnel uses the airport.

“We see more, smaller jets landing at our airport, because of business conducted in Fremont than we ever have,” Newton said.

Helicopters, including one used by a medical business, are kept at the airport. The helicopter used by Methodist Fremont Health lands and refuels at the airport.

“They’re purchasing fuel and we’re getting sales tax and revenues from the fuel that would be going elsewhere if we didn’t have an airport,” Newton said.

The airport, itself, provides jobs.

Fremont Aviation began operation here in 1994 and provides maintenance, private pilot and instrument instruction and Christmas light rides. It employs two mechanics, a secretary, two instructors, a commercial pilot and three line personnel, states data provided by Jim Kjeldgaard, the fixed based operator. Newton also said they conduct annual inspections and repairs.

The airport has other uses.

Crop dusters come every summer and set up operations here, moving out again in the fall, Newton said.

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) leases an older building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Every summer, cadets from across the nation come here for training.

In addition, the Rotary Fly-in Breakfast and July Fourth fireworks show are held here.

The area of the airport is about 320 acres. Newton said the city owns the ground on which the airport sits. What’s not used for airport purposes is leased out for crop production.

Newton said the city does snow removal, mowing and maintenance on buildings at the airport, along with administration and paperwork.

The airport generates revenue from various sources. In 2017, the airport received $163,658 in revenue. Revenue sources were: hangar, pad rent and water: $83,850; rent of about 250 farm acres, $55,669; fee from FBO, $18,486; fuel flow fee, $5,005 and interest income, $648.

In 2017, the airport’s expenditures exceeded revenue.

Newton noted that the airport operated at a loss in 2017 with total expenditures at $186,120.

“We spent $53,647 for consulting and engineering for the apron and terminal,” he said. “We spent more money on hangar repairs than we had in previous years.”

Repairs and maintenance at the airport totaled $37,297.

The airport had a gain in 2016, however, when it had $146,252 in revenues and $105,912 in expenditures.

Preliminary figures from the city for 2018 also indicate the airport had a gain last year with $137,501 in revenue and $120,481 in expenditures.

The airport, itself, has a decades-old history. In 1940, John Siems accepted the job of manager of the airport’s fixed base operator. His and his father built a two-stall hangar on an 80-acre stubble field, where the present airport stands.

Construction of a brick hangar started in 1941, states information provided via Fremont Aviation.

Bricks for the hangar came from a Fremont schoolhouse that had been torn down. The hangar part of the building was once the office and shop area. The front of the hangar was built as apartments for pilots in training programs and now houses the CAP.

Bulk hangars were added in the 1950s and 1960s.

The addition of T-shaped hangars came in the 1980s and 1990s. The advantage of T-hangars is that more planes can be fit in a certain amount of space, because of the units’ shape. The airport also has some 50 by 50 foot and 50 by 60 foot hangars.

In the airport’s early years, runways were grass strips.

A runway and a taxiway were paved in 1947. The runway was extended to 5,500 feet in 1995 to provide more safety and accommodate growing corporate traffic.

In 2010, the runway was extended to 6,350 feet.

The current terminal was built in 1962, the Burns McDonnell report said. The facility needs new heating and air conditioning systems and other upgrades.

It lacks Americans with Disabilities (ADA)-complaint access and amenities.

The new terminal, set to be situated southwest of the current one, will be closer to the runway.

That location would let staff in the terminal better monitor the runway and be able to see incoming planes, said Dave Goedeken, Fremont’s director of public works.

The new terminal would be on the northeast side of the new parking apron.

Newton said the current apron is worn out and needs to be expanded to accommodate more activity and larger planes.

The new parking apron will encompass an area of approximately 6,000 square yards. The apron will fit up to 10 smaller or four larger aircraft.

Plans are to extend Taxiway B to connect the existing terminal area.

Newton said there currently are no plans to expand the airport other than the terminal and apron.

The existing runway will stay the same length in the foreseeable future, but at some point, a parallel concrete taxiway will be extended, Goedeken said.

Future plans include adding and centrally locating aircraft hangars in the new terminal/apron area.

“Right now, we kind of have them scattered to the west. We’ve got some to the south and around the (current) terminal,” Goedeken said. “The future plan of growth would be more to try to fill in that area around the proposed terminal with hangars.”

Newton said there is a demand for more hangars and during an Airport Advisory Committee meeting in December, Kjeldgaard confirmed that all the hangars at the airport are full.

“We’re constantly getting people asking if we’ve got any hangars,” Kjeldgaard said.

During the meeting, Eric Johnson, a committee member, talked about the Revolving Hangar Loan Program. This is an interest-free loan from the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics. Johnson said the city would apply for the funds.

The state’s aeronautics commission, which meets quarterly, would review the application and make an award based on available funds.

Johnson added that federal money couldn’t be used for the hangars, because all those funds are going toward the apron and terminal.

Newton stressed the advantages of being able to get federal dollars for projects.

“We’re fortunate that airports across the United States get federal funding from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration),” Newton said. “If you plan it correctly, you can leverage those FAA funds with local funds and you can — not only maintain — but improve your airport.”

Anna Lannin explained how the federal funding works. Lannin is planning and programming division manager of the Nebraska Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics.

Lannin said Fremont is licensed by the state as to operate as a public use facility and is classified as a regional airport.

“We are planning to update the system plan soon and the airport categories will be reviewed and redefined at that time,” Lannin said.

She did note that it’s difficult for a regional airport, which not only supports its local community but the regional community around it. It’s also not easy because of competition from larger airports and the economics of flying an airplane.

There are 80 public use airports, 21 of which were classified in 2002 as regional airports.

“In Nebraska, there are 73 airports eligible to receive federal funding and most have received and Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant,” Lannin said.

Federal funds are received by the state and dispersed to the airport sponsors to reimburse them for eligible expenses for projects with the AIP grant.

Work continues to make airport improvements and those involved hope plans will take off soon.

Original article can be found here ➤

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