By Chris Zavadil
January 29, 2011
Fremont Municipal Airport is the state’s 2010 General Aviation Airport of the Year.
A contingent of Fremont people, including Mayor Scott Getzschman, Airport Advisory Committee member Gene Acklie, City Engineer Clark Boschult and former Advisory Committee member Eric Johnson, accepted the award from the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics Thursday evening at the Kearney Holiday Inn.
“There were a total of five airports that submitted applications for Airport of the Year,” NDA Director Ronnie Mitchell said. “Our judging panel unanimously voted Fremont.
“From what I’ve been able to look at from the nominations that were submitted, it’s a very progressive airport authority group with wonderful support from the city of Fremont,” Mitchell said.
“They have done several things which have improved the airport,” he said. “For instance, they recently extended the length of the runway 850 feet, which gives a takeoff distance of 5,500 feet in both directions. Most corporate jet aircraft want at least 5,000 feet for insurance purposes and the performance capability of the airplane. Fremont exceeded that by 500 feet.”
Other improvements in 2010 included extending the parallel taxiway 850 feet to the new runway end, and installing high-intensity runway lights.
The work was done to comply with standards for aircraft with wingspans up to 79 feet and approach speeds of 141 knots. Eight-inch thick concrete paving was constructed to support dual-wheel aircraft with a gross weight of up to 48,000 pounds.
This is the first time Fremont won the award, which has been given annually since 1992.
The nomination form, submitted by Getzschman and Airport Advisory Committee Chairman Bill Ekeler, was accompanied by letters of support from five businesses that use the facility.
Taylor and Martin Inc. President Paul C. Wachter and Chief Pilot Mike Kempenar wrote that recent improvements to the airport maintain the best safety factors, and praised the professionalism of Fixed Base Operator Jim Kjeldgaard and his staff.
“Their professional handling of all services; including fueling, servicing, parking, and most important, maintenance of all our aircraft is a sure peace of mind knowing that all this is conducted by the most experienced of crew,” they wrote.
“Safety, peace of mind, and professionalism is what makes the Fremont Municipal Airport and its crew a great place to come home to after every flight,” they added.
Hormel Foods Plant Manager Donnie Temperley wrote that his company routinely uses the airport and have found it to be reliable and efficient.
“Our aviation team enjoys flying in and out of this facility, and they are particularly fond of the increasingly easy operations following the recent upgrades,” Temperley wrote.
Ekeler said the award reflects hard work and cooperation between the Airport Board and the city.
“I think it was the aggressiveness of the Airport Advisory Board and the involvement of the city,” Ekeler said. “I would attribute a lot of it to the support we got from (former City Administrator) Bob Hartwig. He was always a great supporter of the airport.
“The people on the board have taken it very seriously,” Ekeler said. “They show up to the meetings and listen to what people have to say, both internal and external clients, pilots from local corporations and local aviators.
“When you have an organized board working toward a common goal and you can get everyone on the same page, city folks and advisory board members, you’re getting good information back to the city council to make good decisions,” he said.
“Also the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics and the FAA are continually being updated and informed as to the direction of the airport,” he went on. “When there’s competition for funding, your odds are obviously increased when you have a good, articulated plan to these groups.”
The airport has seen a big increase in traffic since completion of the project.
“One week we had a dozen jets in there and those guys buy a lot of fuel,” Ekeler said. “Probably the best thing it does for us is it opens up that investment front door for people who are flying around the country looking for sites to pop in and view what’s available here.”
Ekeler said other efforts have been significant as well.
“I think the project that went on with condemning and removing the homes, taking care of our safe fly zone at the end of the runway, that really helped get us to the next step,” he said. “Really that was the first project the board and city council all supported, and one thing led to another.”
The airport is working on its Airport Layout Plan now.
“That’s going to look at adding hangars; we currently have a waiting list of people looking to locate their aircraft here,” Ekeler said. “Our lighting just got updated the way it needs to be, but with the viaduct coming in we may have some relocation of hangars. We probably need to update and move the terminal. There are a number of things we want to look at right away to make it a little more appealing for people.”