Wednesday, June 26, 2019
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PLANE REPAIR—The Mt. Sterling-Montgomery County Regional Airport is one of few airports in the state that offers plane repair and maintenance. An upcoming project will expand the avionics center into another hangar and will result in the hiring of three new mechanics, airport officials said.

Airport plans project that will result in more hangars
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

Danny Hill calls the Mt. Sterling-Montgomery County Regional Airport “the best kept secret in Montgomery County.”

There is growing demand for services at the airport, which has prompted the airport board to solicit bids for a taxi lane that will allow it to add more hangars.

The closing of bids came yesterday (Wednesday).

One of the hangars will be an addition to the avionics center for plane repairs and maintenance while others can be built privately for corporate or personal use, airport officials said.

Hill, the airport’s fixed-based operator, says the hangars are needed badly with an existing two-year waiting list to get one there.

“The airport never stopped growing since it located here in 1965,” Hill said. “We’re one of the few in the state that is continually growing.”
That growth, however, has created a situation the airport board is anxious to address.

“Our biggest problem here is we’re out of hangar space,” Hill said.
The approximately 200-foot taxi lane will be built on the north side of the airport to the side and rear of the existing avionics center. The current and future avionics center hangars will be owned by Kentucky Airmotive, which runs the day-to-day operations of the airport.

The taxi lane is expected to attract hangars of various sizes and shapes.
Ninety-percent of the taxi lane project is being funded through the FAA with 7.5 percent in state funds and 2.5 in local dollars, Hill said.
The airport gets approximately $150,000 a year in federal airport entitlement funds that can be used for construction projects, airport Chairman Catesby Woodford said.

Woodford said the airport board has saved money from the past few funding cycles to pay for the taxi lane.

An engineering firm was hired to draw up the plans for the project and a list of materials that will be needed to complete it.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Woodford said.

He said the board hopes to accept a bid at its next meeting July 6.

The airport was expected to finish a $195,000 project last week to blacktop the parking apron. The Walker Co. of Mt. Sterling was doing the work.

The airport, considered one of the five busiest in Kentucky, remains a hub of activity year-round.

Hill said 87 aircraft are based there, about 70 percent of them corporate planes, the remaining 30 percent for personal use. Those include four jets and three helicopters. Air Methods, a regional medical helicopter service, is also based there.

The airport has a 5,000-foot runway, which makes it capable of handling most corporate jets. The runway offers an instrument approach that allows it to operate in most weather conditions, Hill explained.

In 2018, Donald Trump Jr. arrived at the airport in a corporate jet when stopping off in Mt. Sterling to campaign for Congressman Andy Barr in his reelection bid.

With no airport in the surrounding counties, Mt. Sterling gets a great deal of corporate traffic because of its location near Lexington, Hill said. Many of them use jets.

That corporate traffic is critical to the local economy, Hill said.
Hill said one of the first things potential industry wants to see when they’re considering locating in Montgomery County is the local airport. He said the local airport has been a key component in landing industry here.

“That’s what this airport is about is being a business tool,” Hill said.
Woodford said he expects that the availability of new hangars will attract even more corporate interest in the airport.

Hill said low fuel prices, the availability of maintenance and lack of fees associated with larger airports like Blue Grass Airport in Lexington are what have made Mt. Sterling so attractive.

The airport receives revenue through leases on the hangars, a flowage fee on fuel and a lease on a farm adjoining the airport, he said.

The airport has a fueling contract with Lockheed Martin.

The county receives tax money from all the business activity that takes place there. Hill noted that more than half of that business comes from people outside the community.

There’s also more to the airport than corporate or pleasure flights.

Kentucky Airmotive played assisting roles in both the Deepwater Horizon and Space Shuttle Columbia disasters.

The Deepwater Horizon incident, which occurred in 2010, resulted in a massive oil spill that is considered one of the nation’s greatest environmental disasters. The Space Shuttle Columbia incident occurred in 2003 when the shuttle disintegrated upon atmospheric entry, killing seven crew members and sending a debris field across hundreds of miles.

Kentucky Airmotive helped spot oil slicks after the Deepwater Horizon incident and assisted in finding debris following the space shuttle incident.

The airport offers a flight school that trains numerous pilots every year and is home to the Experimental Aviation Association that provides education to youths on aviation and potential careers in the field.

It has a state fire detection contract in which it is used to spot potential forest fires and is utilized by the U.S. Forest Service for aerial fire attacks.
Hill also notes that the airport provides pro bono search capabilities for the Mt. Sterling Police Dept. and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the lesser known facts about the airport is that it is a testing site in numerous other career fields such as postal service, real estate and crane operation, for example.

“Most people don’t associate the airport with all that,” he said.
Hill credits the continuity of the airport board over the years for providing the stability and support needed for the airport to grow and thrive.
The board has had only two chairman since its inception—Woodford and the late F.C. “Tyke” Bryan.

Woodford said it has been Hill’s vision for the future that has allowed the airport to reach new heights.

“People don’t base an aircraft at an airport that isn’t well run,” he said.

Hill is available to speak to civic organizations about activities at the airport. You can reach the airport by calling 498-1000.

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