Business community supports airport

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lawrence County has a 10-year “Airport Master Plan” in place. It was developed in 1993 and revised in 2003.

Our commissioners and our state and federal governments for the last 20 years felt it was important to develop our airport based on these studies. These plans were done by independent engineering firms using all available criteria and draw the same conclusions.

The plan summary states, “A business class general aviation airport is one major locational criterion that Lawrence County can market to help attract new business and sustain existing businesses. An improved LCA has the potential to improve the quality and safety of the area by accommodating medical flights, supporting agricultural activities, and supporting state and local government activities.”

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A 1993 survey of more than 75 employers in the Tri-State revealed: Of those businesses returning surveys, 23 percent indicated they or their customers/suppliers currently use the airpark.

More than 20 percent of the respondents indicated they would consider using the airpark more frequently, or they would base aircraft at the airpark, pending facility improvements. Almost 25 percent of the respondents identified the need for a longer runway, an improved precision approach and ground transportation.

More than 70 percent of the business respondents indicated that the availability of a general aviation airport is important to their business.

Business aviation has increased in the last 20 years. There is no reason to believe these statistics have not also increased over the same time frame and will continue to increase over the next 20 years.

Airport improvements started to take place based on these plans and surveys.

The runway surface and markings were improved. Taxiways were extended. Hangers were built. New fueling facilities were built. Land was acquired for the runway extension. Plans were prepared for lighting critical to night flights and instrument operations. An emanate domain suit was filed to acquire the remaining land necessary to extend the runway.

The FAA has been a key partner in making these improvements deemed necessary by our business community. There is no debt owed to the FAA as long as the airport exists and 90 percent grants are available for all of the improvements.

Extending the runway and improving the lighting to facilitate the instrument approach are the keys to improve the business use of our airport. These three improvements open the airport to many other operations and types of aircraft not currently using the facility.

Air evacuation operations would rather use general aviation airports for their quick turn around abilities. LCA is 10 minutes closer to each of the three Huntington hospitals by ambulance than Tri-State Airport.

Ten minutes of critical time is huge in these types of operations. Ten minutes can mean life or death to a critical patient.

Turboprop and small jet aircraft used by business will operate on this size runway. These improvements open the airport to the fastest growing segment of general aviation, very light jets.

VLJs are the immediate future of general aviation. They are used in air evacuation, charter, fractional ownership, business and prisoner transport.

The long-term future of transportation is by air.

Encourage your commissioners to go forward with a plan to improve our airport. It is vital to the economic development of our community. This could be the single biggest step to more jobs and commerce in our county ever taken by our government.

No sustained economic development has ever taken place without an airport and the better the airport the bigger the economic gains. For those who cite Tri-State Airport as an alternative, maybe that’s why they have three hospitals, the Barboursville Mall, the civic center and more industry and business than us.

Our commissioners closed Lawrence County’s hospital years ago and the prospects of ever having another full hospital in our community are dim, to say the least. LCA is a vital piece of infrastructure to business and community. Don’t let our airport go the same direction.

The chances of ever having another airport are for the most part nonexistent if LCA is allowed to close.

Bill Nenni